The mesothelium is the membrane surrounding our internal organs and when disturbed by asbestos, the cells of this membrane become abnormal. This causes the cells that make up the mesothelium to divide uncontrollably causing a higher level of symptoms to occur. Typical symptoms of mesothelioma mimic signs of the common cold, bronchitis, heart disease, pneumonia or flu and go undetected for years or even decades. Once the cancer is out of control, late diagnosis of the disease means it is practically impossible to slow its progressions. As this disease is diagnosed in thousands of patients each year, tests have been developed to expose it at earlier stages so that treatment options can possibly be more effective.
Peritoneal, pleural and pericardial are different types of mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure is the likely culprit of each kind. The different types are named by the location of the disease in the body – stomach is peritoneal, pleural is located in the lungs and pericardial is for the heart. Mesothelioma symptoms are different for each type but generally include difficulty breathing, abdominal and chest pain and fatigue. Exposure to asbestos has also been related to increased chances of lung, larynx and kidney cancer. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to asbestos should inform a doctor so that proper testing can take place and early detection can be made.
In order to understand the origins of mesothelioma cancer, it is important to talk about asbestos. This naturally occurring mineral is taken from the ground and has exposed towns with large mines to elevated levels of mesothelioma, asbestos-related illnesses and diseases. At one time, this magical material was renowned for its properties which allowed it to resist heat and fire. It was also considered to be extremely durable and was used as an insulation fiber-board in structures including ships and walls during the late twentieth century. In 1980, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States began to regulate its use. Believe it or not, it is still permitted in trace amounts in some products but generally asbestos is banned throughout the United States in terms of mining and manufacturing.
Even more amazing is that asbestos is not dangerous when it is stable – that is, when it is not disrupted. Homes constructed pre 1980 that take on remodeling need to be careful that removal of asbestos-containing material or the fibers themselves – can lead to dangerous exposure. Mesothelioma is related to this type of exposure by unknowing contractors or home owners taking on innocent remodeling projects. A huge culprit of asbestos exposure is being subjected to asbestos in the workplace. For decades, workers in the manufacturing industry, even soldiers in the Navy and other military units were exposed daily- in fact hourly- to asbestos. The dangers of the carcinogenic fibers were known but ignored at the time because the properties of the fiber were so highly sought after. Employees are now paying for this negligence with their lives.