While we are currently freezing from winter here in Australia, I am very glad to be invited to join a summer campaign for Mesothelioma Cancer Awareness from the US which is run by Heather Von St. James, a brave survivor of the disease herself. Not only does this give me the opportunity to virtually escape from winter (which is my least favourite season as recently realised) but this also gives me the opportunity to write a post for a good cause. The purpose of this campaign is to educate people about this form of cancer and help spread awareness. By doing so, we could potentially save lives and possibly prevent people from acquiring this cancer.
First of all, what is mesothelioma cancer and what causes it?
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It is named such because it mainly affects the mesothelium, the thin layer of cells lining the internal organs. About 70% of mesothelioma cases affect the lungs, but in some cases, the asbestos also affects the abdominal cavity or even the heart.
This cancer mainly affects people who directly worked at some stage of their life with asbestos or was exposed to products containing the substance. It can also be passed-on indirectly to people they are living with as second-hand victims through an asbestos worker’s soiled clothes. The disease has a long latency period, meaning the symptoms do not show until many years after exposure to asbestos. In some cases, it could be 10 years but the average is 35-40 years. As a result, the cancer often progresses to a later stage before it gets detected, when treatment options become more limited and less effective.
Asbestos was widely used during the 20th century. For a long time it was considered a miracle material because of its fire and heat resistant quality. Its use can be dated from a long time ago as a building material and a component of fabric used in clothing and textiles. However, asbestos use grew heavily during the US Industrial Revolution in factories, railroad cars, shipyards, oil refineries, chemical plants and was used extensively as the 20th century progressed. Exposure to asbestos became alarmingly extensive as it was practically used in majority of products such as automobile breaks and clutches, building insulators, cements, roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles etc.
It wasn’t until mid-20th century when the asbestos was discovered to be posing health risks to those exposed to it. This health risk is now known as mesothelioma. This occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled through the mouth and nose and become embedded in the lining of the lungs or when swallowed, in the abdominal lining. The fibers cause malignancies in the affected area as the substance asbestos is considered to be carcinogenic or cancer causing. Often times, the malignancies can be difficult to reverse because the cancer can go undetected during the early stages and will not show symptoms until the later stage when the cancer has become more challenging to cure.
For more information on mesothelioma and how to put effort in joining this campaign, please click here.