Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma

mesothelioma lung disease

As experts in asbestos abatement, Paragon Environmental recognizes the dangers of asbestos for families in and around the Golden CO area. Exposure to asbestos on a regular basis increases the possibility of developing lung disease. The longer a person has been exposed to asbestos, the greater the risk that they will develop a serious health condition. Because airborne asbestos fibers can be easily inhaled, the lungs are a prime target for the development of disease. Fibers become trapped in the lung tissue, causing irreversible inflammation, scarring, and cell damage.

Mesothelioma is one of three lung diseases associated with asbestos exposure (lung cancer and asbestosis are the other two). Approximately 70-80 percent of mesothelioma cases result from asbestos exposure. Following exposure, this disease may take decades to produce symptoms. Once diagnosed, the prognosis is poor – usually 12-14 months since there is no known cure and existing treatments are not effective for everyone.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the tissue lining the internal organs. This tissue also forms a protective sac around thoracic and peritoneal organs. The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the membranes lining the lungs and chest cavity. Other common areas affected include the tissue lining the abdominal cavity and the membrane surrounding the heart.

Tumors form in the affected area and can spread to other tissues and organs through the bloodstream, lymphatic system, or some other means. Different forms mesothelioma may be classified based upon the cell type involved, the specific nature of the malignancy, the tissues or organs affected, and the disease’s clinical course. After symptoms manifest themselves, mesothelioma may rapidly progress to cause life-threatening complications.

Who Is at Risk of Exposure?

Asbestos exposure most commonly occurs in an occupational setting, although it can also occur at home and in the natural environment. Prior to 1980, workers involved in manufacturing drywall, piping, glues and adhesives, insulation, ceiling tiles, cement, and shingles and more were exposed on the job. Secondary exposure mostly includes family, and environmental exposure was a risk in the towns where asbestos was mined or processed.

The highest risk is for people who worked with the raw mineral or asbestos-containing materials daily. These high-risk occupations include, for example, shipyard workers, construction workers, industrial workers, power plant workers, chemical plant workers, boiler workers, insulators, and auto mechanics. Tradesmen and firefighters can be exposed during renovation, demolition, or disaster response.

What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and perhaps a chronic cough. In the later stages of the disease, many people complain of difficulty swallowing. X-rays usually reveal a mass on the chest wall, and there may be small lumps under the skin in the chest area.

Peritoneal mesothelioma (affecting the tissue around the abdominal area) produces weight loss, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and fluid collection in the abdominal region. In the later stage of the disease, obstruction of the small bowel is common.

Pericardial mesothelioma (affecting the tissue around the heart) causes abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.

Individuals with mesothelioma often experience feeling generally unwell, with symptoms such as night sweats, weight loss, fever, and weakness. Unfortunately, during the early stages of the disease many people report no symptoms. This contributes heavily to the poor prognosis for mesothelioma because by the time symptoms arise, the disease is likely in the advanced stages.

What You Can Do

If you work in a high-risk occupation, follow the safety guidelines for working with asbestos and asbestos-containing materials. Do your own research to learn about how or when you might be exposed. If you live in an older home and you have concerns about the presence of asbestos, contact an experienced asbestos professional to advise you.

Be proactive. If you have been exposed to asbestos through past employment or building renovation project, seek regular medical examinations to check for signs of any asbestos related illness. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Early detection provides the best prognosis for mesothelioma, so be diligent about regular checkups. Your future depends on it!

For more information on asbestos abatement and the services offered by Paragon Environmental, call 303-529-1257.

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