Today I had to research and write a short piece for another online publication about Mesothelioma. That’s the disease otherwise known as Asbestosis.
One of the scariest things I found about this disease is that it’s not just related to people who have working in the asbestos industry. It can affect you and me too and so I’m re-publishing the piece I wrote here for your information.
Asbestos was a common-as-grass building material not all that long ago so it is probably in the houses and offices across the world and as it degrades it has the potential to affect a huge proportion of the population.
“Mesothelioma is described in Wikipedia as an â€œuncommon form of cancerâ€; unfortunately whoever wrote that may soon want to rewrite that brief description because the disease is very definitely on the increase.
The Queensland Asbestos Related Disease Support Society is currently gaining up to 10 new members every week. When the society was first formed in 1992 there were 35 members, today the membership stands at 620 despite the grim fact that around 60 members die every year.
Mesothelioma is a malignant form of cancer that develops in the mesothelium. The mesothelium is the protective lining that covers most of the bodyâ€™s internal organs and mesothelioma attacks that lining.
The most common points of attack are the outer linings of the lungs and chest cavity all though it may also occur in other parts of the body including the lining of the abdominal cavity and the sac around the heart.
Mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation of asbestos particles that ultimately lodge in the lungs. The effects are usually not immediate and the disease can lay dormant for many years.
Most people who develop mesothelioma have had some prolonged exposure to asbestos. It is extremely common in people who have worked in asbestos mines and in their families. It is also becoming more common in people who have been involved in home renovations where asbestos products such as early forms of fibro and early forms of insulation have been disturbed.
But it is not limited to just those people. Anyone who has any contact with asbestos fibers can succumb to the disease because it takes just one fiber to start the ball rolling. There is even a case here in Queensland of a school teacher contracting the disease from asbestos dust that settled on the desks of her classroom after the school roof began to degrade.
Unfortunately short term exposure to asbestos fibers is no guarantee that the disease wonâ€™t develop and more and more relatively young people are beginning to be afflicted by the disease.
Diagnosis of mesothelioma is not easy because the symptoms that many display are similar those produced by a number of other conditions. Ultimately a biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Treatment of mesothelioma is not well advanced and traditional methods used in treating other forms of cancer have proved ineffective. Once the symptoms of mesothelioma manifest themselves the disease quickly develops and long-term survival is not common.
Queensland Workcover chairman, Ian Brusasco, admits that the average life expectancy for a person who develops the disease is 163 days from diagnosis till death.
Fortunately there have been some small developments in treatment therapy recently but the disease is still considered to be incurable.
Perhaps the scariest thing about the disease is that many people are either completely ignorant of the dangers or they simply donâ€™t care. Earlier this year a complete but badly degraded asbestos roof was removed from a house in Cypress Street. Neighbours and the occupants of the house were not warned and the contractor and his crew took no precautionary measures and wore no protective clothing.
There are already several Mesothelioma sufferers here in Hervey Bay and now, thanks to that work, there could be many more in the future.”