Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by an exposure to asbestos. The Mesothelioma Center is the most complete, up-to-date resource – like an Internet encyclopedia – that can explain anything you want to know about the two.
An estimated 2,500 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma, one of the few cancers that can be attributed solely to man-made exposure. It develops in the thin layer of cells that surround the chest, abdomen or heart.
And it is caused by an inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers that get lodged in that mesothelium membrane. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once used in thousands of products, including anything related to construction to anything that needed some heat resistance and flexibility. Unfortunately, it was toxic, and when disturbed or ages, it becomes airborne.
Although the prognosis for a mesothelioma diagnosis is usually poor – six to 18 months to live – strides are being made slowly. There are exceptions, too.
The Mesothelioma Center has documented survivors who have lived five, 10 and 15 years with the cancer for which there no cure.
Mesothelioma often is viewed as an occupational disease, most prevalent in construction, ship building and among military veterans. The majority of patients are male. Yet it also strikes women who never stepped into the workplace, breathing those asbestos fibers from floor or ceiling tiles.
The Mesothelioma Center is a one-stop resource for patients, families and friends. It has free informational packets, a Doctor Match Program to sync patients with doctors, nurses on staff to answer questions, and patient advocates to help people through every step of their journey.
Because mesothelioma is rare compared to many cancers, only a small percentage of physicians have seen it enough to fully understand it, and properly diagnose it. They just don't see it enough.
Mesothelioma has a latency period of anywhere from 10 to 50 years between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis, which is why the disease can be so puzzling. Many of the symptoms – fatigue, a persistent dry cough, shortness of breath – are often confused with other, less serious illnesses.
It is important to find the best possible care, and as quickly as possible when the cancer is in its earliest stages.
Bio: Tim Povtak is a senior writer for the Mesothelioma Center. Prior to joining the center, Tim was an award-winning journalist at a daily metropolitan newspaper.