Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Asbestos: The danger you live and work with

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium; the protective lining around the interior organs of our body, and can affect multiple areas including the abdomen, the heart and the testicles. The most common manifestation of the disease however is in the pleura (the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall), and is usually brought on by exposure to, and inhalation of asbestos fibres, either as a direct result of working with it, or through washing/treating the clothes of loved ones who have done so. 

The disease rarely develops less than 15 years after initial exposure, and in general does so 30-40 years down the line. This is key information as asbestos first became widely mined and used during the second world war, a process that continued through the 1960s and in some countries into the 1970s, with millions of people worldwide having been exposed. Although the first legal case involving asbestos-induced mesothelioma was settled in 1929, true appreciation of causality was not achieved until after numerous medical studies during the 1960s / 1970s. In the US, UK and Australia asbestos is now indisputably linked to the onset of mesothelioma, with no recognised threshold relating to 'safe' levels of exposure.

Symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pains, coughs (including coughing up blood), unexplained weight loss, fever and anaemia. Patients are usually suspected to have developed mesothelioma on the basis of chest X-rays and CT scan findings. Diagnosis, however, can only be confirmed via cytology (the removal and study of cells) or biopsis; the removal of suspicious tissue. Treatment can involve radiation therapy, chemotherapy and in some cases surgery. 

Diagnosing the disease and developing prognoses is generally difficult as the disease produces symptoms found in many other unrelated illnesses, such as lung cancer. Research still is under way on the benefits of screening tests as a preventative measure. However, as the disease develops patients can experience abdominal pain (due to a build up of fluid), bleeding of bodily organs, jaundice, blood clots in the arteries and veins, and tumour masses in the abdominal cavity. Ultimately, life expectations for sufferers of mesothelioma are severely reduced.

In the UK, sufferers of asbestos related diseases can contact the National Asbestos Helpline free on 0808 250 6775. Established specifically to help asbestos victims, they offer legal, emotional and financial support and n the last 6 months alone they have recovered £3,500,000.00 for asbestos disease sufferers and their families. They also boast a 100% satisfaction record, and more information is available on the organisation at www.nationalasbestos.co.uk

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