Asbestos and Asbestos Diseases
Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and many old buildings include asbestos in the walls, ceilings, and floors. When intact, asbestos is not especially hazardous. However, when asbestos materials break apart, asbestos fibers are released into the air. When these fibers are inhaled, they become lodged in the lungs and cannot escape. Excessive accumulation of these fibers can lead to abrasions on the lung wall, which will eventually become scarred. Over time, this damaged wall tissue can result in the formation of cancer.
Workers at the plants and factories that made asbestos products were often the victims of this deadly material. The asbestos fibers got in the air and when inhaled produced lung diseases such as asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, and lung cancer. The occupational health diseases caused by asbestos fibers affected the lives of tens of thousands. Workers at foundries, power plants, paper mills, refineries, and construction sites were exposed to asbestos. Asbestos was widely used in naval vessels and many sailors were exposed.
Mesothelioma can be difficult for doctors to diagnose because its early symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases. The disease also has a long latency period, with the amount of time between asbestos inhalation and the manifestation of the cancer sometimes taking decades. This long latency period often causes patients to be unaware of their risk for contracting mesothelioma.
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma may include shortness of breath (caused by expanding pleural effusion), chest pain, and persistent dry cough; symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include abdominal pain, increased abdominal girth, distention of the abdomen, ascites (fluid in the abdomen) and digestive disturbances. Less common symptoms of both may include fatigue, night sweats, and weight loss.
If you worked around asbestos at any point in your life, remember that asbestos diseases remain a possibility for you as you get older.
For more information, please see www.mesotheliomaweb.org