This year marks the 17th annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day on September 26. Each year this day takes place to bring awareness to the rare form of lung cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that only accounts for 3,000 new cancer diagnoses each year, making research and researching funding limited. Since the survival rate of mesothelioma is pretty low, it’s important to continue raising awareness and fundraising to improve life expectancy, discover more treatment options, and find a cure.
Keep reading to learn more about mesothelioma cancer, how it can be prevented, and how you can get involved in spreading awareness.
So you’re probably wondering, what exactly is mesothelioma? A rare form of cancer, mesothelioma impacts the lungs or abdominal as asbestos particles linger in the linings of these areas. Approximately 20 million people are at risk for developing mesothelioma, especially individuals who work in occupations where exposure to asbestos is likely to occur. Asbestos can also be found in a majority of homes and buildings built before 1980— further increasing people’s chances of being expsosed.
Typically, those who receive a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis have a life expectancy of 18-31 months after diagnosis. It is so crucial to catch mesothelioma in the early stages to increase survival rates and avoid the cancer from spreading.
It can take between 10 and 50 years after asbestos exposure for symptoms to begin in a mesothelioma patient. Unfortunately, the symptoms of mesothelioma often overlap with the symptoms of other, less serious conditions. This makes it difficult to immediately diagnose a mesothelioma case.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma:
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms it’s important to seek medical attention so there’s the best chance of an early diagnosis.
The average age of a mesothelioma diagnosis is 74 years old. After symptoms appear, doctors will then decide if tests are necessary to perform to check for mesothelioma. Performing a biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose mesothelioma. If a biopsy confirms a positive mesothelioma diagnosis, doctors will then move to determinethe stage of the diagnosis and create a treatment plan.
There are four stages to mesothelioma. If the diagnosis is caught in the early stages, either stage one or stage two, there are more treatment options since the cancer is localized to one area of the body. However, in stages three and four, there are fewer treatment options as the cancer continues to spread throughout the body.
Treatment options include:
- Radiation therapy
While there is currently not a cure for mesothelioma cancer, research continues in the United States through clinical trials. Advocacy and awareness for mesothelioma is an important part in finding a cure as more people learn about the cancer and help donate funding towards research.
The Role Of Asbestos
Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer, making the dangers of asbestos awareness crucial. Currently, there is no exact level of asbestos exposure to avoid. Any amount of exposure to asbestos is enough to pose health complications and increase the chances of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
There is an increased risk of exposure for those who work in specific fields such as construction, mechanics, plumbing, first responders, and even school teachers. Additionally, 9/11 survivors are at a higher risk of having inhaled asbestos smoke and debris that contained asbestos particles.
Is Mesothelioma Preventable?
In short, yes, mesothelioma is preventable. Because mesothelioma is caused by breathing in asbestos particles, then avoiding asbestos can prevent you from developing this cancer. However, since asbestos particles are not visible to the naked eye there’s no sure way to know you’re being exposed unless an asbestos inspection takes place.
In this case, it could be too late. It’s imperative that safety precautions are followed when it comes to asbestos and potential exposure. Always be sure to consult a professional before beginning a home renovation project that could leave you vulnerable to asbestos exposure.
How You Can Help
Whether you have a close connection to mesothelioma cancer or not, there are still many ways you can get involved to help spread awareness for this disease. The first thing you can do is talk about it and share information with your family and friends. Since asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of breathing in asbestos particles.
Other ways to get involved:
- Wear mesothelioma blue to show support
- Participate in local events and fundraisers
- Hold information sessions for your community
- Share and listen to survivor stories
The more the community is aware and vocal about mesothelioma awareness, the more likely it is for more research to be funded to find a cure. Spend this September 26th sharing what you’ve learned about mesothelioma.