March 9, 2009
Mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer that is almost always caused by asbestos exposure and is most commonly found in the outer lining of the lungs called the mesothelium. A majority of the people who develop mesothelioma contract this cancer through breathing in asbestos fibers or being exposed to asbestos dust while on the job. In cases where mesothelioma is found in a person with no previous asbestos exposure, it is summized that the exposure may have stemmed from asbestos fibers found on the clothes of someone in their home who worked in an area where asbestos dust was found.
There are a number of reasons that make diagnosing mesothelioma in its early stages extremely difficult. The symptoms of mesothelioma can have a latency period of anywhere between 20 to 50 years after the initial asbestos contact, which means by the time the symptoms begin to show, the cancer is already within its advanced stages. Once symptoms are present, diagnosis is still not a speedy process. There are a number of diseases that mirror the symptoms that are found in mesothelioma patients and because of this mesothelioma is often the last stop - usually without prior mention from the patient about the possibility of previous asbestos exposure.
The success of treatment for mesothelioma is dependent on the stage in which the cancer is found. As it is found that most mesothelioma is not discovered until the advanced stages, mesothelioma treatment is often referred to as unsuccessful. Studies show that when found within either stage I or II, treatment for mesothelioma - usually with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy - is successful in extending the patient's life for five years at a rate of 74.6% (Wikipedia). There are also alternative forms of therapy that can be used in conjunction with conventional treatments, that have been shown on occasion to decrease the size of mesothelioma found in a patient.
Asbestos was used for many years in a wide array of household and industrial products because of its multiple types and uses. It is fireproof, and can also be used as an insulator, thus allowing it to become very popular during the Industrial Revolution. It is unknown whether or not people were aware of the dangers of asbestos fibers at that time, but by the 1900's the risk of asbestos was becoming more obvious. People who lived in mining towns would develop lung problems, and general studies showed that asbestos workers died at a young age. Asbestos, in an undisturbed state, seems to pose no threat. However, as soon as it becomes damaged or friable, the fibers are able to be ingested, thus potentially leading to these or other health problems. Although some companies were aware of this danger, they continued to work with products containing asbestos with no regard to their employees. These blatant injustices are the reason for the popularity of mesothelioma in the field of litigation.
The Asbestos Cancer and Mesothelioma Support Center at Asbestos.Net