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Getting the Asbestos Facts Straight: What Exactly is Mesothelioma?

We all know that the side effects of asbestos can be scary—and even result in death, but why is that? With so much scaremongering present in the asbestos industry, we’re here to give you a light insight into some of the effects asbestos can have on the body so you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

When you read about asbestos, you may hear that someone who has usually been working in close contact with asbestos has developed mesothelioma. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is a cancer—but how does asbestos cause cancer?

For example, if someone working in a shipyard was exposed to asbestos (usually long-term, but there are recorded cases of short-term and one-time exposures causing side effects) without the proper safety equipment, they’re likely to be affected by the asbestos fibres. When asbestos is disrupted and the microscopic fibres escape to the air, they can be inhaled or swallowed and the human body isn’t able to remove them. These fibres then become lodged in the mesothelial tissue that surrounds the lungs, which can then cause damage to the cells, which unfortunately, ends with a tumour growing.

Another point about mesothelioma worth mentioning is that it doesn’t always show straight away. In fact, it can lie undiagnosed with no symptoms showing from anywhere between 20-50 years! So why does it take so long for the symptoms to show? The time between the inhalation of asbestos and the oncologist’s diagnosis is known as the ‘latency period’. Over time, the fibres catalyse biological changes which are known to cause inflammation and scarring and in the worst cases, cancer. There are some other causes of mesothelioma—it can emerge as a result of radiation exposure and as a side effect of the SV40 polio vaccine.

There is no cure for mesothelioma, but research is uncovering more answers about the cancer and progress is happening swiftly. There are ever evolving new treatment options available and a host of alternative therapies to help those who are afflicted with it.

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