Mesothelioma: Could Your Job Be Putting You at Risk of Cancer?

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Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that usually affects the tissue found in the thin layer that usually covers the inner layer of the internal organs found in the body. Mesothelioma is a very deadly cancer that moves very fast and is aggressive. There are several treatments that can help to manage this disease however there is no cure for it.

Based on the area the cancer affects, doctors have separated the cancer in different types and classifications. The classification was done based on the area of the mesothelioma the cancer affects.

Most often, mesothelioma usually affect the tissues found in the pleura lining of the lungs. Sometimes although very rare, the cancer can decide to start attacking the tissue lining the mesothelium of the abdomen. It can also decide to attack the tissues found in the lining around the heart, and the testicles.

Mesothelioma doesn’t include a type of benign tumour which is non cancerous that occurs in the chest. This tumour is sometimes called solitary fibrous tumour or a benign mesothelioma.

Causes:

Generally, cancer occurs when some cells begin to grow and multiply abnormally it eventually gone out of control. This is due to a series of abnormal genetic mutations which have started to occur within the cell.

For mesothelioma, what causes the initial abnormal genetic mutation isn’t clear. This means that the exact cause of mesothelioma isn’t known however, there are known factors which have been seen to contribute to the increase of the cell growth abnormality.

Most likely, this cancer forms as a result of series of interactions between many factors. This factors could include inherited conditions like ones environment, one’s choices in his/her lifestyle, as well as one’s health conditions.

Risk factors:

When considering mesothelioma, there are a number of risk factors that one must consider and they include:

1. Exposure to asbestos:

This is the primary risk factor of getting mesothelioma. Asbestos is a natural mineral that is found in the environment. The fibers found in asbestos have been discovered to be very strong and resistant to heat, and this quality makes then quite useful in the very wide variety of applications. They are mostly used for the manufacturing of brakes, insulation materials, shingles, flooring materials and so on.

When asbestos is broken maybe while manufacturing is taking place or during the mining process or when there is a removal of asbestos insulation, dust would be formed and dispersed. Once this dust is mistakenly inhaled or swallowed and digested, the fibres of the asbestos will go ahead to settle either in the lungs or in the stomach as the case may be.

When this occurs, they will stir up an irritation in the lining of the lungs or the stomach hence causing mesothelioma. How this exactly occurs isn’t understood very well yet, however, it could take up to 20-40 years or even much more than that before a mesothelioma can occur due to asbestos exposure.

Many people with years of exposure to the fibers of asbestos never developed mesothelioma. But there are others who have developed this cancer even on very little exposure to asbestos. This therefore indicates that if it isn’t asbestos that could increase the chances of one developing mesothelioma, there are still other factors that could double one’s chances of getting the disease.

2. Your personal history of exposure to the fibers of asbestos:

If you are constantly benign exposed to asbestos either at work or at home, the risk for you developing mesothelioma doubles.

3. Living with a person who deals with asbestos daily:

So many people who are constantly being exposed to asbestos usually carry the fibers home from their work place. They may likely carry it on their skin or clothing without them even knowing about it.

When the home is always being exposed to these stray fibers for a good number of years, the people at home are at a certain disadvantage and can increase the risk of them being constantly exposed which could lead to the development of mesothelioma.

4. Family history of mesothelioma:

If your family member; either your sibling, child parent or spouse has mesothelioma, you may be exposed ans this will increase your chances of developing this disease.

5. Predisposition to cancer:

If you already have a predisposition to cancer maybe from family history or certain other factors, this increases your risk of developing mesothelioma.

Symptoms of mesothelioma:

The signs and symptoms depends on the location of the mesothelioma.

1. Mesothelioma found in lining of the lungs:

This is otherwise known as pleural mesothelioma. This affects the tissues surrounding the lining of lungs. These therefore causes signs and symptoms that would include:

  • Pains felt in the chest most especially under the rib cage.
  • Painful bouts of coughs.
  • Apnea (shortness of breath)
  • Presence of unusual lumps of tissues which are seen under the skin of the chest.
  • Unexplainable weight loss.
  • Tightness around the chest

2. Mesothelioma found in the lining of the abdomen:

This is also known as peritoneal mesothelioma. They are most commonly seen in the tissues that are found surrounding the lining of the abdomen. The signs and symptoms which may be noticed include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Inflammation of the abdominal lining and invariably the abdomen
  • Presence of tissue lumps found within the abdominal lining
  • Unexplainable weight loss.

3. Other forms of mesothelioma:

This forms aren’t found in the abdomen or the lungs, they may be seen around the testicles, heart or anywhere else. The signs and symptoms of these kinds of mesothelioma aren’t exactly clear. This is because cases that have presented with these forms are very few because they are rare to find.

  • Pericardial mesothelioma: This is the kind of mesothelioma that affects the tissues surrounding the lining of the heart. A person with this condition may be experiencing tightness around the chest area, difficulty in breathing as well as severe chest pains.
  • Mesothelioma found in the tunica vaginalis:

This kind of cancer is found in the tissues lining the testicles. It may first be detected as a mass or a swelling around the testicles.

Complications:

For pleural mesothelioma; once it starts spreading in the chest, it causes a mass which will begin to put pressures on some structures found within the chest hence causing compression. This will lead to complications such as:

  • Intense breathing difficulty
  • Severe chest pains
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Due to the pressure places on the nerves and spinal cord, the patient will experience severe pains around the area
  • Pleural effusion is likely to occur. Pleural effusion is the accumulation of fluid within the pleural lining of the lungs. Once this occurs, there will be a compression on your air sacs (lungs) which will lead to difficulties in breathing.

Due to the nature of their jobs, a lot of people are exposed to the natural fibers of asbestos. People who are frequently exposed to asbestos include Miners, Workers in the factory where asbestos is constantly being refined or used for other kinds of manufacturing, manufacturers of insulation materials, ship builders, Workers in construction companies where asbestos is used, auto mechanics and so on.

At home mostly especially buildings that have been for a long period of time, most products used in the house are made with asbestos. Removing the asbestos is even much more deadlier than leaving it intact.

Whatever you do, don’t break the asbestos in your home. This is because once you break it, some of the fibers will become airborne and may travel down your lungs or through your mouth into your abdomen.

If you must change them in your home, call the experts to help you out with that. There are some experts who have been trained to detect asbestos in your home and they will likely test the air around your home to determine if you are at risk.

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/symptoms-causes/syc-20375022?_e_pi_=7%2CPAGE_ID10%2C4146979907

This article is for educative purposes only and not to be substituted for professional medical advice.