What is Mesothelioma and What Causes It?
Caused primarily by exposure to a natural mineral fiber, mesothelioma is a rare but complicated cancer that affects around 3,000 Americans each year.
Asbestos is responsible for nearly all mesothelioma cases. When disturbed, the naturally occurring fibers can become lodged in the lining of the lungs, stomach or abdomen. Internal damage occurs over a period of several decades. Eventually, cancerous changes may occur, and mesothelioma tumors may develop.
Although asbestos is the cause of most mesothelioma diagnoses, several other risk factors have been identified. These include:
· Exposure to non-asbestos mineral fibers (i.e. erionite and taconite)
· Exposure to SV-40
· Exposure to radiation
When a genetically pre-disposed person is exposed to one of these risk factors, the cancer may begin to develop.
As it progresses, the cancer causes few to no symptoms. Once it has reached its later stages, however, the asbestos-related disease can trigger a number of uncomfortable symptoms, such as coughing, chest pain and difficulty breathing.
What to Do if You Think you Have Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is notoriously difficult to treat – especially when it is diagnosed in its later stages. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most common mesothelioma treatments, but patients can also turn to naturopathic solutions.
Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy or chiropractic care may also be used in the treatment of mesothelioma. These treatments are typically palliative rather than curative in nature.
To be prime candidates for curative mesothelioma treatments, patients should be diagnosed in the earliest stages of the disease.
Since mesothelioma grows without causing many symptoms, early diagnosis is most common in patients who have been scheduled for asbestos-related disease screenings. To help detect the cancer as soon as possible, anyone who suspects they have been exposed to asbestos (or another mesothelioma-causing substance) should register for regular disease screenings.
Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for the Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is on living with cancer.