Asbestos Related Cancer

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Asbestos is a deadly mineral that was used throughout much of the twentieth century in construction projects, shipbuilding, and common household products. Once thought of as a wonder-material because of its heat- and fire-resistant properties, as well as its strength, durability, and tensility, its use was banned in 1989 by the Environmental Protection Agency, because it was proven to cause lung cancer and the rare-but-deadly disease mesothelioma. However, some asbestos products are still produced, a condition granted after asbestos companies appealed the EPA's decision.

Innocent looking enough, and even surrealistic under the light of special microscopes used to detect its presence, asbestos has become a fearsome opponent for people who have been either occupationally or environmentally exposed to it. Asbestos related cancer is currently diagnosed in approximately 3000 people each year in the United States alone, with those numbers anticipated to increase through the years ahead as it's detected in more industrial workers of the twentieth century. Asbestos was used in many types of insulation, automobile components, paint and tile, in mines, shipyards and manufacturing facilities, for the railroads, and on construction sites. It remains in many of these same areas, though asbestos is usually safe in buildings if it's undisturbed. However, when buildings with asbestos are renovated or torn down, professionals should be hired to handle asbestos removal, as it's most dangerous when it becomes friable, or airborne.

The tiny fibers that float in the air at work sites may be inhaled and embedded in the lungs to later develop into pleural mesothelioma, or may be swallowed and lead to peritoneal mesothelioma. There have also been cases of second-hand asbestos cancer in the family members of workers who bring home the fibers in their clothes, on their skin, and in their hair if they do not change and shower before leaving the work site. This is especially true in mining towns, where cancer rates are usually much higher than average, both of miners themselves and of their families.

Asbestos related cancer signs may not appear for years or even decades after the exposure, and the symptoms that do show up might be easily ignored, as they mimic those of other more common illnesses. Typically, because of this long latency period, mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, or other diseases are not diagnosed until the opportunity for effective treatment has closed. Anyone who has a history of asbestos exposure needs to be aware of the symptoms of asbestos related cancer and report them to their health care provider without delay. Pleural mesothelioma will be in the form of a tumor in the chest or lung area and may be reflected in shortness of breath, coughing, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, fever, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, muscle soreness, or swelling of the face and arms. Peritoneal mesothelioma will be in the form of a tumor in the abdominal area and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and weight loss.

Prognosis following diagnosis will be different from patient to patient, but overall asbestos related cancers are difficult to overcome. Physicians have identified that younger, non-smoking patients who are able to maintain a healthy weight during treatment have better chances of survival. Through testing, the identification of the type of cancer cell that has formed will also be a good indicator of how responsive they will be to treatment. More than anything else, however, early reporting of symptoms and a physician's ability to accurately identify the stage of the disease will prove to be the best method of treatment. Unfortunately, scientists have not found a cure to any of the asbestos-related cancers.


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