Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Asbestos: The Health Risks

Asbestos is the name for a mineral grouping that occurs naturally in nature. It has been widely used, particularly in construction. The fibrous bundles of asbestos are separated to produce thin and durable sheets. The reason why this material has come to be so widely used in various industries is because its fibers have a resistance to heat, fire and chemicals, and it is not a conductor of electricity.

Although the use of asbestos may appear to be practical and harmless, evidence has shown that those exposed to asbestos, whether at home or at the workplace, face a severe health risk. Any disturbance to asbestos products can cause the release of asbestos fibers into the air that may then be breathed in. This can be extremely serious, as when breathed in, the particles could get trapped and remain lodged in the lungs for a long time. The accumulation of these fibers over time causes inflammation and scarring, affecting the respiratory function and can result in severe health problems.

The fact that asbestos has been classified as a human carcinogen should give you a clear idea of the risk it poses. Exposure to asbestos increases the likelihood of developing pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and benign pleural effusions, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is in fact the term for the condition resulting from exposure to asbestos and indicates the presence of symptoms like chest pain, breathing difficulties, scarring, stabbing pains, and other permanent lung damage that increases the risk of the fore mentioned diseases.

There are various factors that can add up to increase the risk posed to you from asbestos exposure.
· The source
· The dosage exposed to
· The duration of the exposure
· The nature of the asbestos fibers or manufacturing process – size, shape and chemical makeup
· Individual considerations such as the presence of a pre-existing lung disease or smoking

The risk of course, increases with heavier and more prolonged exposure, but can also be serious when only brief. Keep in mind that the signs of illness may not surface until long after the initial exposure.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mesothelioma: Simple Questions and Answers

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles.

  1. What is the mesothelium? The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body. It is composed of two layers of cells: One layer immediately surrounds the organ; the other forms a sac around it. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that is released between these layers, allowing moving organs (such as the beating heart and the expanding and contracting lungs) to glide easily against adjacent structures.The mesothelium has different names, depending on its location in the body. The peritoneum is the mesothelial tissue that covers most of the organs in the abdominal cavity. The pleura is the membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the wall of the chest cavity. The pericardium covers and protects the heart. The mesothelial tissue surrounding the male internal reproductive organs is called the tunica vaginalis testis. The tunica serosa uteri covers the internal reproductive organs in women.

  2. What is mesothelioma? Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum…..
  3. How common is mesothelioma? Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.
  4. What are the risk factors for mesothelioma? Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos.Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. Asbestos has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.Smoking does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma. However, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person’s risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung.

  5. Who is at increased risk for developing mesothelioma? Asbestos has been mined and used commercially since the late 1800s. Its use greatly increased during World War II. Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. Initially, the risks associated with asbestos exposure were not known. However, an increased risk of developing mesothelioma was later found among shipyard workers, people who work in asbestos mines and mills, producers of asbestos products, workers in the heating and construction industries, and other tradespeople. Today, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits for acceptable levels of asbestos exposure in the workplace. People who work with asbestos wear personal protective equipment to lower their risk of exposure.The risk of asbestos-related disease increases with heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time. However, some individuals with only brief exposures have developed mesothelioma. On the other hand, not all workers who are heavily exposed develop asbestos-related diseases.There is some evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos-related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of asbestos workers. To reduce the chance of exposing family members to asbestos fibers, asbestos workers are usually required to shower and change their clothing before leaving the workplace.

  6. What are the symptoms of mesothelioma? Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Shortness of breath and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleura are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and abdominal pain and swelling due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, and fever. If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.These symptoms may be caused by mesothelioma or by other, less serious conditions. It is important to see a doctor about any of these symptoms. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis.

  7. How is mesothelioma diagnosed? Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult, because the symptoms are similar to those of a number of other conditions. Diagnosis begins with a review of the patient’s medical history, including any history of asbestos exposure. A complete physical examination may be performed, including x-rays of the chest or abdomen and lung function tests. A CT (or CAT) scan or an MRI may also be useful. A CT scan is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. In an MRI, a powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures are viewed on a monitor and can also be printed.A biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. In a biopsy, a surgeon or a medical oncologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer) removes a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. A biopsy may be done in different ways, depending on where the abnormal area is located. If the cancer is in the chest, the doctor may perform a thoracoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small cut through the chest wall and puts a thin, lighted tube called a thoracoscope into the chest between two ribs. Thoracoscopy allows the doctor to look inside the chest and obtain tissue samples. If the cancer is in the abdomen, the doctor may perform a peritoneoscopy. To obtain tissue for examination, the doctor makes a small opening in the abdomen and inserts a special instrument called a peritoneoscope into the abdominal cavity. If these procedures do not yield enough tissue, more extensive diagnostic surgery may be necessary.If the diagnosis is mesothelioma, the doctor will want to learn the stage (or extent) of the disease. Staging involves more tests in a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to which parts of the body. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.

    Mesothelioma is described as localized if the cancer is found only on the membrane surface where it originated. It is classified as advanced if it has spread beyond the original membrane surface to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, chest wall, or abdominal organs.

  8. How is mesothelioma treated? Treatment for mesothelioma depends on the location of the cancer, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s age and general health. Standard treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Sometimes, these treatments are combined.
    • Surgery is a common treatment for mesothelioma. The doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. For cancer of the pleura (pleural mesothelioma), a lung may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed.
    • Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy affects the cancer cells only in the treated area. The radiation may come from a machine (external radiation) or from putting materials that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).
    • Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Most drugs used to treat mesothelioma are given by injection into a vein (intravenous, or IV). Doctors are also studying the effectiveness of putting chemotherapy directly into the chest or abdomen (intracavitary chemotherapy).

    To relieve symptoms and control pain, the doctor may use a needle or a thin tube to drain fluid that has built up in the chest or abdomen. The procedure for removing fluid from the chest is called thoracentesis. Removal of fluid from the abdomen is called paracentesis. Drugs may be given through a tube in the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating. Radiation therapy and surgery may also be helpful in relieving symptoms.

  9. Are new treatments for mesothelioma being studied? Yes. Because mesothelioma is very hard to control, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is sponsoring clinical trials (research studies with people) that are designed to find new treatments and better ways to use current treatments. Before any new treatment can be recommended for general use, doctors conduct clinical trials to find out whether the treatment is safe for patients and effective against the disease. Participation in clinical trials is an important treatment option for many patients with mesothelioma.People interested in taking part in a clinical trial should talk with their doctor. Information about clinical trials is available from the Cancer Information Service (CIS) (see below) at 1–800–4–CANCER. Information specialists at the CIS use PDQ®, NCI’s cancer information database, to identify and provide detailed information about specific ongoing clinical trials. Patients also have the option of searching for clinical trials on their own. The clinical trials page on the NCI’s Web site, located at on the Internet, provides general information about clinical trials and links to PDQ.People considering clinical trials may be interested in the NCI booklet Taking Part in Cancer Treatment Research Studies. This booklet describes how research studies are carried out and explains their possible benefits and risks. The booklet is available by calling the CIS, or from the NCI Publications Locator Web site at on the Internet.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mesothelioma Cancer Picture

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

2009 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma

The 2009 International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma will take place this June in Washington, DC. Organized by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation), the event will feature international specialists as well as mesothelioma patients, caregivers, and advocates.

Leading international experts in the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, will join mesothelioma patients, caregivers, loved ones and advocates to share the latest in treatment, research and clinical trials at the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma. The event starts on Thursday, June 25th and runs through Saturday June 27th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, in Washington, DC.

The Symposium, organized annually by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) will highlight the latest advances in mesothelioma research and treatment for patients and caregivers, offer psychosocial support to them and those who have lost loved ones to the disease, and provide all who are intent on helping to find a cure for mesothelioma with significant advocacy and volunteer opportunities.

Sessions during the three-day conference will feature worldwide mesothelioma experts discussing the most current developments in research, treatments and projected initiatives. Science Day also provides the lay participants with the opportunity to interact informally and extensively with the experts. More information about the sessions is on the Meso Foundation’s website.

At the Gala Dinner Friday evening, the Meso Foundation and the community will honor patients living with mesothelioma, and give the Foundation’s traditional three annual awards. The Bruce Vento Hope Builder Award, named for the late Minnesota Congressman who died from mesothelioma in 2000, acknowledges the support and initiatives of a political leader. The Pioneer Award highlights the contribution made by a researcher or company toward new mesothelioma treatment options. And the Volunteer of the Year Award honors the efforts of the members of the community.

Friday morning includes a tribute ceremony for the community to remember and acknowledge those who have been lost to mesothelioma. All those who have lost a loved one to the disease are invited to submit their loved one’s name and photograph and participate in this special ceremony.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is the national non-profit dedicated to finding a cure for mesothelioma by funding mesothelioma research, providing mesothelioma patients support services and participating in federal mesothelioma advocacy.

To register for the symposium or for additional information, please visit the Meso Foundation’s website at

Friday, July 3, 2009

CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Analyzes Mesothelioma Death Rates

The CDC’s April 24, 2009 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report served as a reminder to some and alert to others of the deadly and lingering effects of asbestos. The report, "Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality – United States, 1999-2005," reviewed annual deaths attributable to malignant mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos, compared to population, death rates, and asbestos usage.

Cause of death records from the NIOSH’s NORMS database show the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths rose from 2,482 in 1999 to 2,704 in 2005. A 2004 article from the American Journal of Epidemiology cited by the MMWR report suggests the diagnosis of mesothelioma may peak in 20101.

These increases, despite the sharp decline in asbestos usage since importation of the mineral peaked in 1973, are a result of the long latency period between asbestos exposure and disease progression. Asbestos-related diseases often develop 20, 30, or 40 years after the initial exposure.

However, the MMWR report cautions against complacency. Asbestos is not banned; some 1700 metric tons were imported into the US in 2007.

While this is a far cry from the more than 800,000 metric tons imported annually at the height of asbestos use, this "new" asbestos combined with the substantial amounts of already present in buildings makes asbestos exposure a concerning risk even today. According to OSHA’s estimates, "1.3 million construction and general industry workers potentially are being exposed to asbestos."

Even if the number of new mesothelioma cases begins to decline in 2010, it will be years before the effects of decades of poor asbestos management and lackluster concern for worker safety are no longer apparent in the statistics.

Of the 18,068 deaths between 1999-2005 which were analyzed:

* 80% were men
* 95% were white

The six states with the highest rate of death attributable to mesothelioma were:

* Maine (22.2 per million residents)
* Wyoming (22.2 per million residents)
* West Virginia (21.0 per million residents)
* Pennsylvania (20.8 per million residents)
* New Jersey (20.2 per million residents)
* Washington (20.1 per million residents)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Which occupations are at risk from Mesothelioma Disease

These occupations are at high risk from mesothelima disease.
  • Aerospace and missile production workers
  • Aircraft manufacturing production workers
  • Aircraft mechanics
  • Asbestos textile mill workers
  • Automobile manufacturing production workers, including automobile mechanics and brake repairers
  • Boilermakers
  • Brake and clutch manufacturing and assembly workers
  • Building engineers
  • Building material products manufacturers
  • Cement plant production workers
  • Coast guardsmen
  • Construction workers, including insulators, boilermakers, laborers, steel/ironworkers, plumbers, steam fitters, plasterers, drywallers, cement and masonry workers, roofers, tile/linoleum installers, carpenters, HVAC mechanics and welders
  • Custodians
  • Demolition and wrecking crews
  • Electrical workers, including electricians, electrical and telephone linemen
  • Family members of occupationally exposed people
  • Insulation manufacturing plant workers
  • Insulators
  • Longshoremen
  • Machinists
  • Merchant mariners
  • Packing and gasket manufacturing plant workers
  • Pipefitters
  • Powerhouse workers, including insulators and pipefitters
  • Protective clothing and glove makers
  • Railroad workers, including locomotive mechanics, car mechanics and rebuilders, and maintenance personnel
  • Refinery workers, including insulators and pipefitters
  • Refractory products plant workers
  • Rubber workers, including tire makers and hose makers
  • Sheetmetal workers
  • Shipyard workers, including electricians, insulators, laborers, laggers, painters, pipefitters, maintenance workers and welders
  • Steamfitters
  • U.S. Navy personnel
  • Warehouse workers


Mesothelioma patients often suffer from a great deal of pain as a result of their illness. Tumors can press on nerves, organs or bones causing pain ranging from mild to severe. There can also be pain associated with the mesothelioma treatment itself - whether treatment is from surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Psychological pain associated with the knowledge that you have cancer or the belief that the demands of cancer are burdensome to family and friends can be difficult, as well.

The three most common types of pain are chronic, acute and breakthrough. Chronic pain can be varying in degree from mild to severe and persists over a long time. Acute pain is short in duration, quite sudden and severe. Someone who experiences pain when his or her chronic pain is normally controlled by medication is said to have "breakthrough" pain.

Many patients are unaware of the numerous resources available that can help them feel better - some of them at no cost. There is no benefit to enduring this pain as it can cause problems sleeping, problems with activity and movement, make a patient less likely to eat, increase depression, and interfere with how a patient interacts with family and friends. Untreated, pain can diminish a patient’s quality of life.