Post sourced from Mesothelioma.com
The 17th Year of Recognition
In 2004, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation created Mesothelioma Awareness Day (MAD) as a way to educate, spark conversations, and generate widespread awareness for this rare disease. Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects nearly 3,000 people in the United States annually. With only one known cause, mesothelioma has been discovered to be directly correlated through exposure to asbestos. Understanding the harmful effects of asbestos exposure, as well as how mesothelioma attacks the body, is the starting point to becoming an advocate for this important community.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found across the United States. Known for its tensile strength and heat resistance, it was utilized as an additive in a variety of different products, most commonly building materials. Asbestos has been proven to be carcinogenic in humans, and exposure can lead to asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma cancer. Exposure occurs when asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) become damaged, releasing fibers into the air. These airborne fibers have the ability to be inhaled or ingested by humans, where they can wreak havoc on our internal organs. Exposure is most prevalent among construction workers, military personnel, and factory workers.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer linked directly to asbestos exposure. Once in the body, these fibers will cling and remain stagnant to the lining of internal organs. The lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen are the most prominent areas of the body where mesothelioma can develop. Over the course of 10 to 50 years, asbestos fibers cause tissue scarring and inflammation to the linings of these organs. Tumors slowly begin to develop, and symptoms may start to appear decades after exposure.
Coughing, chest pain, loss of appetite, and fatigue are just a few of the minor symptoms that occur when someone has mesothelioma, often mimicking less severe illnesses. A mesothelioma diagnosis is difficult to discern solely based on a medical evaluation, and a tissue biopsy is necessary to perform in order to be conclusive. The life expectancy of someone who is diagnosed with mesothelioma is bleak, with the average time span being 12 to 21 months. If you or a loved one begin to experience these symptoms, or have a history of working with asbestos, you should be evaluated immediately and on a consistent basis. Catching this disease early greatly improves routes of treatment and the overall prognosis.
Who is at risk?
With knowledge that the latency period of mesothelioma is so dramatic, the leading demographic of this disease is men over the age of 65. Alongside senior citizens, those who have held jobs in the military, construction/demolition fields, and first-responders are all proven to be disproportionately affected by asbestos due to the heavy use of this material in the early 1900s.
While women and children are susceptible to asbestos exposure as well, traditionally these occupations were held by men. However, if a worker came home with loose asbestos fibers on their clothing and skin, their families would then become vulnerable to second-hand exposure.
Why we need a global ban
Currently, there are 63 countries with full asbestos bans. Among this list, the United States has yet to put a full ban into effect, which continues to put citizens at risk of new exposures. By implementing a full ban with mandates to abate all ACMs from homes and buildings, not only will citizens be safer from past and future usages, but our environment will be greener because of it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 10,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed across the globe each year. With mesothelioma being one of the only non-genetic cancers, it can be completely erased from the world of oncology. However, it’s pertinent to keep spreading information about the dangers of asbestos in hopes that a global ban or further legislation can be enacted soon.
Mesothelioma Awareness Day
While Mesothelioma Awareness Day is once a year, the thousands of patients and families battling this disease is every day. Understanding the dangers of asbestos allows for everyone to be an active member of the conversation. Mesothelioma has the potential to be a disease of the past, however this will only happen if we all come together to raise awareness.