The Importance of Mesothelioma Awareness and Research

What would you do if your doctor said you have a rare and aggressive form of cancer they are not familiar with diagnosing or treating and you only have a few months to live?

Unfortunately, close to 3,000 people in the U.S. face this reality every year.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral once highly coveted for its resistance to chemical and heat damage.

Prior to the 1980s, asbestos was commonly used as a form of insulation and incorporated in about 300 other building materials used in homes and public buildings, as well as military ships.

When asbestos fibers become loose, worn or damaged, they may become airborne and easily inhaled through the nose or mouth. Over time, the fibers can embed themselves in the lining around the lungs, heart or abdomen and can eventually lead to cancer.

Because this asbestos-related cancer is so rare, awareness of its existence is relatively low. It is important not only for the general public to become aware of its causes and symptoms, but it's also imperative that physicians and medical professionals know how to recognize early symptoms, and how to promptly diagnosis and treat it.

Why Now?
Mesothelioma cases in the U.S. are expected to peak sometime between 2015 and 2030. That means more people are affected by this disease right now than before, and just about every one of these cases could have been prevented. There is no better time than now to spread awareness of this horrible disease.

If people were more aware of the presence of asbestos and the dangers it possesses, more precautions could have been taken to avoid the increasing number of people diagnosed with the disease.

Asbestos exposure should — and can be — prevented with the right amount of awareness, stricter regulation of the asbestos industry, and setting higher moral and ethical standards for companies large and small.

Awareness Leads to Early Detection
Early detection is the key to long-term survival of this asbestos-related cancer, because it is aggressive and it progresses quickly. The life expectancy of someone with this type of cancer ranges from nine to 24 months.

The more aware someone is of potential symptoms, the more apt they are to promptly receive medical attention and receive an early diagnosis. The sooner someone is accurately diagnosed, the sooner that person can receive the correct type of treatment.

Receiving a promising prognosis depends on detecting the cancer early. There is no substitute for recognizing possible symptoms and knowing when to talk to a medical professional.

How National Organizations Are Increasing Awareness
The primary goal of most national organizations is to raise money to fund medical research and clinical trials, explore treatment options, and eliminate the threat of asbestos, while raising awareness.

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization declared the first National Asbestos Awareness Day in 2005. Since then, the day dedicated to awareness has evolved into the National Asbestos Awareness Week with more opportunities to educate the public about this toxic substance while bringing people together from all over the world to discuss ways to prevent asbestos-related diseases from taking more human lives.

This year, September 26th is National Asbestos Awareness Day. Many organizations will join together and share their knowledge of the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure in hopes of making a difference. Some organizations will host conferences, others will host fundraising events, and some will focus on advocating for people with mesothelioma in other unique ways.

Miles for Meso, hosted by the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation, is a 5K race to raise mesothelioma awareness and research funds. Since 2009, the foundation has raised more than $160,000 in proceeds from the annual event.

How You Can Help
Simply being more aware of what materials were used to build your home and taking any necessary precautions at home or in the workplace can help save your life or even a loved one’s life. If you think there is asbestos in your home or work environment, make sure to call a professional to assess the situation and remove all toxic substances safely.

If you want to get more involved, ask your oncologist of any events in your area to help show your support. With awareness importance at its peak, local events are happening all across the country all year long. Get involved. Make a difference.

Kaitlyn Teabo is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in writing, cancer research and emerging scientific technology to educate the mesothelioma community about asbestos and its related diseases.