Our busy lives involve using technology to invent new ways to help make things faster and easier for us. While these inventions aim to make a positive impact on our lives, they leave a dark trail of health challenges and illnesses that are difficult to cure. A great example is malignant mesothelioma caused by inhaling asbestos fibers which deposit in the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. This type of cancer is deadlier and aggressive, and the illness is not curable in most cases. To understand why it is more dangerous, we need first to determine what it is, its symptoms, causes, and risk factors.
What is malignant mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer of the mesothelium—a membrane that lines the inside of your body’s cavities like the chest or abdomen. Most common mesothelioma cases begin in the chest cavity and can also begin in the abdominal cavity or around the heart. Malignant cells from mesothelium can attack and damage the nearby tissues. The cancer cells also spread or metastasize to other body parts.
Everyone exposed to asbestos is at risk of developing mesothelioma. The fine asbestos fibers are too tiny to be seen with naked eyes. When disturbed, these fibers break and fly up and flood the air, and people inhale them. When inhaled, the particles end up in the lungs causing other respiratory conditions, including mesothelioma. The cancerous layer settles on the membrane that protects inner organs.
Note that not all people who are exposed to asbestos end up having malignant mesothelioma as other factors also play a role. Some of the factors include a family history of mesothelioma, living with someone who works with asbestos, radiation therapy to the chest, and personal history of asbestos exposure.
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma
The signs of mesothelioma vary depending on the affected part. The symptoms usually appear when the tumors spread, grow and start pressing against the chest wall and the abdominal cavity. The common symptoms include:
- Respiratory complications
- Dry coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Fever or night sweats
- Chest pain
- Weakness in the muscles
- Plural effusion
Why is it dangerous?
When you are exposed to asbestos for a long time, you are at risk of developing malignant mesothelioma. You become part of the statistic of among the 3000 people who are newly diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. The sad part is that the chances of healing are slim, and even if you get better, your respiratory system could face many challenges. On average, the life expectancy for those diagnosed is between 6 and 12 months, and less than 33 percent live longer than a year. Over 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are pleural, meaning that the lungs are heavily affected.
The most common treatment option provided is the combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Most symptoms also mimic other respiratory conditions like pneumonia, asthma, colds, whooping cough, laryngitis, and flu. If you are a shipyard worker, industrial worker, mechanic, pipefitter, plumber, electrician, boilermaker, or construction worker, be sure to book an appointment with your doctor to find out if all is well. If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, you can file workers’ compensation claims and get an attorney to ensure you are fairly compensated.