Mesothelioma FAQs: What You Should Know About Mesothelioma

Tremolite Asbestos Crystal Structure
Crystal Structure of Tremolite Asbestos ~ Image Credit: Depositphotos/molekuul

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelium is the name given to a protective, two-layered membrane which covers the internal organs of the body. These organs include the lungs and heart. Mesothelioma is a cancer that occurs between the layers of this membrane. It is caused by exposure to Asbestos.

When was the first person diagnosed with this disease?

The first case of mesothelioma was diagnosed in 1962. The person was an Australian man who worked in asbestos mines for 2 years.

Are there any other causes of mesothelioma other than asbestos?

No, the only cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.

How long does mesothelioma take to occur after exposure to asbestos?

Historically, mesothelioma takes 20-50 years after exposure to appear. However, the events of 9/11 and the rescue work that was subsequently required show a different result. In rescue workers at the World Trade Center, mesothelioma has appeared within 5 years.

Are lung cancer and mesothelioma the same thing?

No, Lung cancer and mesothelioma are not the same disease. Mesothelioma affects the lining of the lung and not the tissues of the lung directly. The major cause of lung cancer is smoking which does not cause mesothelioma.

What symptoms/signs should alert one to the possibility of mesothelioma?

Symptoms that are common in mesothelioma patients are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme fatigue (especially after exercise)
  • Coughing
  • Presence of fluid in the chest
  • Loss of weight
  • Voice becomes husky
  • Patients have difficulty in swallowing

Is mesothelioma a curable disease?

Unfortunately no; mesothelioma is not a curable disease at this point in time.

Is there a relationship between mesothelioma and asbestosis?

Asbestosis could be a beginning stage of mesothelioma. It is not necessarily true that asbestosis will always lead to mesothelioma. In some people it does but in others it does not.

Is smoking related in any way to mesothelioma?

It has been found that if one continues to smoke after being diagnosed with asbestosis there is a much higher chance of developing mesothelioma.

How does one get mesothelioma?

As the only cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos; close proximity to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma.

People who worked (or are working) in an industry where asbestos is used – such as shipping or construction – most probably have inhaled asbestos fibers. One may also get second hand exposure to asbestos by inhaling asbestos dust from the clothes of people who worked with it or by living near an asbestos mine or factory.

What can one do to prevent mesothelioma?

The best way is to completely avoid exposure to asbestos. If you are currently working with the material, stop immediately!

If you have been diagnosed with asbestosis, stop smoking as it will increase your chances of developing mesothelioma.

How many lives does mesothelioma take annually?

Approximately 2,500-3,000 people in America die each year as a result of mesothelioma.

Who is at greatest risk of getting mesothelioma?

People who regularly work with or are exposed to asbestos are at the highest risk. These include:

  1. Shipbuilders
  2. Workers at construction sites
  3. Auto mechanics
  4. Workers at power plants
  5. Boilermakers
  6. Railroad workers
  7. Iron workers
  8. Miners