Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that invades the
protective membrane, or mesothelium, around the internal organs and almost
all cases are linked to asbestos exposure. Nationally, reports of
mesothelioma are less common than other cancers. This cancer often goes
undetected for 35 to 50 years after asbestos exposure since symptoms
usually do not appear until the cancer is in a more advanced
stage. Organs most commonly affected:
According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC), roughly 2,000-3,000 cases are diagnosed annually,
with approximately 80% of that number affecting men over the age of 60.
According to 1999 CDC mortality statistics, Pennsylvania is ranked 16th in the
nation for the number of mesothelioma deaths. Five Pennsylvania
counties were reported with the highest number of deaths caused by
mesothelioma: Northampton, York, Montgomery, Chester, and Philadelphia.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Health Statistics and
Research, reported 956 cases of mesothelioma during the five-year period
from 1998 to 2002.
Who is at Risk?
Working with asbestos
is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. Although it is still used
in some products, most use stopped after 1989 when the connection between
asbestos and cancer became apparent. Those working in or around
products such as insulation, floor tiles, door gaskets, soundproofing, roofing,
patching compounds, fireproof gloves, ironing board covers, and even brake pads
can show symptoms for mesothelioma years after initial
contact. Asbestos is so common in many industry and work places
that for many years it was not considered a health threat.
mesothelioma are also common to less serious conditions.
best advice for anyone who has worked with asbestos is to inform their
Symptoms for pleural
and swallowing difficulties, coughing, shortness of breath, fever, and
Symptoms of peritoneal
and vomiting, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, bowel
obstruction, and pain and swelling of the stomach area.
Symptoms of pericardial
pains, breathing difficulties, and persistent coughing.
The treatment program
for mesothelioma depends on the stage of the cancer, where the cancer is, how
far the cancer has spread, how the cancer cells look under the microscope, the
patient's age, and the patient's decision about treatment. Even with
available treatment programs, the patient's outcome is dependent on the stage
of the disease. Therefore, early diagnosis is critical. In addition
to the more traditional treatment options of chemotherapy, surgery, and
radiation therapy, there are new research treatments currently being explored.
Photodynamic therapy uses
a fixed frequency of light to target abnormal cells and kill them off by the
activation of photosensitizing drugs.
the abnormal cells through the use of the body's own defense system through
enhancement and development of the immune system.
Radiation Therapy is a radiation treatment that targets just the affected
area or tumor, avoiding contact of healthy cells and tissue.
If you think you or a
family member have been exposed to asbestos, talk to your doctor.
For guidelines and
For Pennsylvania specific data on mesothelioma
prevalence and mortality, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau
of Health Statistics and Research, at (717)783-2548