With only one state – California – ranking higher than Florida in incidence of mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths, it is important for Floridians to understand the realities of this serious asbestos-related disease.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is rare — diagnosed in approximately 3,000 people in the United States each year — but the cancer is still a very serious threat. It typically affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. The two most common types of mesothelioma – differentiated by the location of the original tumor – include pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is by far the most common, making up around 75 percent of diagnoses. Peritoneal mesothelioma makes up about 10 to 20 percent of mesothelioma cases.
Patients often experience a number of serious symptoms, including chest pain, coughing and shortness of breath. These symptoms typically increase in severity as the cancer progresses.
Mesothelioma is difficult to treat, but several drugs have been approved for mesothelioma therapy. The most common treatment approach involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which can extend life expectancy for approximately a year from the time of diagnosis.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure, which occurred most frequently in industrial occupations such as:
· Construction work
· Power generation or maintenance work
· Auto repairs
· Insulation work
People can also be exposed to asbestos through the environment or through a secondhand source. There are no naturally occurring asbestos deposits in Florida, but there are numerous jobsites where the fibers were used, including the Atlantic Dry Dock, the Pensacola Naval Air Station and NASA stations on the Space Coast. Public buildings, schools, construction sites and homes built before the 1980s are also potential sources of asbestos exposure.
When asbestos is inhaled, the fibers are easily trapped within the mesothelium. Because the body has a hard time expelling the fibers, once they have become lodged inside the body, they can remain there and trigger cancerous changes until mesothelioma develops. However, it is important to note that not everybody who is exposed to asbestos will develop an asbestos-related disease. It generally takes years of heavy exposure in an occupational setting for a person to be at risk of asbestos-related diseases.
Non-Asbestos Related Causes of Mesothelioma
Although cases of non-asbestos related mesothelioma are the definite minority, other causes of the cancer include:
· Radiation exposure
· Exposure to non-asbestos fibers like erionite
Asbestos exposure is responsible for more than 80 percent of mesothelioma cases, with some studies reporting even higher percentages of causation. Avoiding asbestos exposure remains the primary method of mesothelioma prevention.
Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.