Healthy Lung Month, observed each October, reminds us how important our lung health is and how lung diseases affect millions of Americans. For those with mesothelioma, October means something extra special. Asbestos diseases are more rare than other common lung diseases and are much more difficult to diagnose. Although more rare, mesothelioma is equally as deadly. Thanks to national campaigns like Healthy Lung Month, mesothelioma has gained more public awareness in recent years.
What is mesothelioma?
Several of the body’s cavities are lined with a thin membrane called mesothelium. This membrane plays a critical roll in protecting the body’s internal organs so that a person can move and breathe freely. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, which is cancer of the mesothelium. Mesothelioma is a vicious form of cancer that can remain dormant for up to 70 years without detection, although symptoms appearing within 10 – 15 years after exposure is more likely.
There are three different types of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial.
- Pleural Mesothelioma – the cancer develops in the lining around the lungs.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma – the cancer develops in the lining of the abdomen.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma – the cancer develops around the lining of the heart.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for 75% of diagnosed cases. This form of mesothelioma takes place when an individual inhales asbestos fibers and the fibers become attached to the lining of the lungs. Here are some common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma:
- pain in chest under rib cage
- pain when coughing and coughing up of blood
- shortness of breath or wheezing
- abnormal lumps on chest
- weight loss
Although asbestos accounts for most cases of mesothelioma, there are a few other factors that could play a part in this cancer, including genetics and radiation treatments for other cancers.
History of asbestos poisoning
Years ago, little was known about the health effects that asbestos had on individuals exposed to it. Asbestos was used as a fire retardant material in many different industries, including automobile, manufacturing, power plants, and even the military. Although asbestos was initially used to protect workers from fires, it wasn’t until years later that the lingering health effects asbestos had on individuals were discovered.
Taking care of a loved one with mesothelioma
Caring for a mesothelioma patient can be an overwhelming burden to carry, but here are some of the latest tips that may be of help:
- Provide emotional support: Providing emotional support to a loved one with mesothelioma can be extremely beneficial to their emotional well being. Many mesothelioma patients face severe depression after diagnosis, and just being a caring individual who is there to listen and give advice can be a great way to show your love and care.
- Help monitor your loved one’s health: Caregivers spend a lot of time with mesothelioma patients. Caregivers can help doctors by keeping a daily log of any health concerns or changes. This information can help the doctor better treat the mesothelioma patient by trying different treatment options and adjusting dosages as needed.
- Explore treatment options: Not all treatment options are the same. Chemotherapy and radiation are standard when it comes to treating mesothelioma, but there are other methods you may not have heard of. Participation in a clinical trial could prove to be an effective treatment plan. Clinical trials allow for patients to have access to new treatments or drugs long before the public can have access. Participating in a clinical trial may result in an incremental improvement in the cancer. Caregivers can help a mesothelioma patient by exploring different options for treatment.
Even though healthy lung month is almost over, lung cancer awareness month is in November. Awareness has spread and researchers are determined to find a cure for this deadly cancer. Early detection of mesothelioma will continue to produce the newest and most effective treatments possible.