Menstuff® has information on mesothelioma cancer.

What is Mesothelioma?
About the Disease
Effects of the Disease
Who Gets Mesothelioma?
Dealing with Mesothelioma
Who's to Blame?
How Mesothelioma Affects Veterans
About The Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center

Related Issues: Agent Orange

What is Mesothelioma?

Throughout the past decade, the term "mesothelioma" has become more and more recognizable. Once an obscure disease that meant little to the general public, mention of this disease now conjures up thoughts and pictures of factories and mines strewn with asbestos and the unfortunate workers who were employed in those dangerous places.

Thanks to concerned medical professionals, researchers, and watchdog organizations, we're learning more and more about mesothelioma and how it affects the lives of those who are afflicted. However, there's still far to go as both better treatments and a cure for the disease are sought.

About the Disease

Simply put, mesothelioma which is commonly referred to as asbestos cancer, is an aggressive cancer caused primarily by the inhalation of dangerous asbestos fibers. The disease attacks the mesothelium, a protective, two-layered membrane that covers the internal organs of the body including the lungs, heart and abdominal organs. Between these layers, the cells produce fluid, which allows easy movement of the heart and lungs within the chest cavity. The layer that covers the lungs is called the pleura, and the layer that covers the heart is called the pericardium. The peritoneum lines the abdominal cavity. Mesothelium also lines the male and female reproductive organs. Mesothelioma can affect any of these cells, but is usually seen in the pleural or peritoneal mesothelium. The most commonly diagnosed form of this cancer is pleural mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma takes anywhere from 20 to 50 years to develop, which is why older individuals are usually the victims. However, recent cases involving September 11th World Trade Center first responders and clean-up crews show that high concentrations of asbestos can cause the disease to develop much more rapidly. A few WTC workers have already died of the disease.

Effects of the Disease

The invasion of the mesothelium by cancer cells makes it very difficult for the patient to breathe, resulting in the need for oxygen, especially as the disease progresses. Those with the pleural form of mesothelioma may also suffer from pleural effusions. These effusions prevent the smooth movement of the lungs and other organs in the chest. Peritoneal mesothelioma also affects the stomach area and abdominal cavity, causing nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite, which can result in dangerous weight loss. In addition to breathing difficulties and loss of appetite, mesothelioma victims also complain of excessive coughing, sleeping difficulties, persistent chest pain, fever, and pain in the lower back.

Mesothelioma, in general, is a very painful disease and because it is usually not diagnosed until it's in an advanced stage. For this reason, the symptoms are typically quite serious. Late diagnosis also means that the cancer is more likely to have metastasized, or spread, making successful mesothelioma treatment even more difficult.

Who Gets Mesothelioma?

Statistics show that, because of their work history, the disease most often affects men between the ages of 50 and 70 who were employed in an asbestos-laden environment before asbestos warnings and bans were in place in the 1970s. Though women still have a much lower frequency of the disease, cases of second-hand exposure to asbestos has prompted more diagnoses among women, especially those whose male family members worked with asbestos. The occupations most associated with mesothelioma are shipyard workers, electricians, plumbers, construction industry workers, pipefitters, boilermakers, and anyone subject to heavy exposure to dangerous asbestos and airborne asbestos fibers.

An abundance of cases have also demonstrated that mesothelioma can develop among people who lived in communities where asbestos factories or mines were located. In some instances, entire towns have been adversely affected by the presence of asbestos fibers in the air. For example, in Libby, Montana - site of a former vermiculite asbestos mine - hundreds have already died of mesothelioma.

Though still significantly rarer than other cancers, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States. Other countries, notably the United Kingdom and Australia, report a much higher incidence of the disease. Nevertheless, the United States - like many other countries - has seen an increase in asbestos-caused cancer as men who worked in U.S. shipyards in the 1940s and 1950s, at the height of production, are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Dealing with Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in its late stages, and such a diagnosis is devastating to the individual and his/her family. Though research into the disease has been ongoing, there is currently no cure for mesothelioma. Some patients may be candidates for surgery to remove tumors or even an entire lung, but most are better treated with radiation or chemotherapy. More often than not, these treatments are palliative, serving to lessen the severity of the symptoms of the disease rather than offering a cure.

Medical professionals and research scientists, however, are constantly exploring new ways to combat the disease. For example, doctors know that some combinations of chemotherapy drugs work better than others and tests developed to ascertain earlier diagnosis of the disease or to monitor those most at risk have arrived on the scene.

Who's to Blame?

The reason someone develops mesothelioma is usually the lack of proper protection offered to those who worked with asbestos. Though the dangerous properties of asbestos and asbestos products have been evident for decades, many employers neglected to protect their workers from inhaling asbestos while on the job. It wasn't until public awareness of the dangers of the material were revealed in the 1970s that many employers began offering protective clothing such as respirators, gloves, aprons, and other such items to those working with asbestos on a daily basis.

Due to the negligence of employers, many companies who manufacture asbestos or products that contain asbestos have been subject to literally thousands of lawsuits filed by those who've been harmed by the material. Many of those lawsuits have come from individuals suffering from mesothelioma.

How Mesothelioma Affects Veterans

Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of the rare cancer known as mesothelioma (the most common form of this cancer is pleural mesothelioma). This cancer affects the protective lining around the lungs called the 'mesothelium.' Asbestos related lung diseases and cancer are not easily diagnosed and unfortunately, are not evident in the body until many years after exposure. There are many individuals who have been exposed to this deadly fiber in their homes and work locations. Typical environments where asbestos was used were shipyards, construction sites, and places where the fiber was used for insulation purposes. What most people fail to recognize, however, is that many US veterans who served in the military were also exposed to the toxic hazards of asbestos in their daily routines.

Those who may have been directly or indirectly in contact with asbestos fibers include Navy shipyard workers, other military branches and even civilian workers employed on or off shore in different commands. Research shows that specific jobs exposed workers to asbestos. These include machinists mates, machinery repairmen, and those who worked in boiler rooms. There is a higher rate among those workers on different Navy Ships for contracting the deadly disease. This was due to asbestos being used more frequently in shipyards than any other military location in the country. Since mesothelioma and other lung related diseases are triggered in later stages of life, veterans who were involved in the military between 1940 and 1970 are those that are at an increased risk.

Unfortunately, there were a number of companies during the 1940s through the 1970s that created products for military use that were imbedded with asbestos fibers. Individuals exposed to these fibers then contaminated their home environments because the fibers were transported in their hair, on their clothing and gear. These companies however, did not know at the time the complications that could arise because of the asbestos, and therefore, could not warn those who were being exposed. By the 1950s, however, there was a generous amount of information being published about the hazards of asbestos exposure, leaving employers (military and non-military) no excuse for making their employees aware of the danger. Moreover, the industries that did not tell their workers about the danger knew how much money they would gain by using and distributing products that contained asbestos. They were confident they would not be held accountable for the adverse reactions years later because of the time it takes to develop the lung related illnesses.

Asbestos related diseases will increase drastically within the next twenty years. Fortunately, there is still research being conducted to determine more information about mesothelioma treatment, it's causes, and it's symptoms, and where exactly people have been exposed. There is not, however, enough being done to determine how veterans will be compensated for the damages done to their health and quality of life.

About The Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center

The Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center has long been recognized as the web's leading organization for relevant and authoritative information regarding asbestos and health complications associated with asbestos exposure. Our organization is staffed entirely by writers and other developers who recognize the importance of building awareness in the fight against cancer. As nearly all of us have been touched at some point by cancer, we realize that sometimes the greatest resource we can provide is support and education.

Our organizational goal is to extend as much information as possible to those experiencing battling mesothelioma or other asbestos related disease. We are one hundred percent committed to providing the full spectrum of relevant and expert-researched information, from live clinical trials and other medical resources to the legal implications of asbestos exposures. We provide the web's most extensive listings of possible jobsite asbestos exposure sites to help patients and families understand the origins of this unfortunate disease.

None of us will ever be able to find the cure for mesothelioma alone. However, through the spread of information and cooperation among patients, families, and cancer specialists we believe that one day we will be able to eradicate this disease. If you are wondering how you too can help, we welcome a constructive dialogue about how we can make our site even better.

We will be part of the solution!

Contact the MAA Center Staff
Tel: 1-866-981-6660
Fax: 1-866-275-4728
By Mail:
201 E. Jefferson St. #201
Syracuse, NY 13202

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Under the VA rule, soft tissue sarcoma does not include osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma.

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