Monthly Archives: November 2006
Are new treatments for mesothelioma being studied?
Yes. Because mesothelioma is very hard to control, the National Cancer Institute (NCI ) is sponsoring clinical trials (research studies with people) that are designed to find new treatments and better ways to use current treatments. Before any new treatment can be recommended for general use, doctors conduct clinical trials to find out whether the treatment is safe for patients and effective against the disease. Participation in clinical trials is an important treatment option for many patients with mesothelioma.
The Associated Press reports the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that Owens Corning has no claim against tobacco companies over asbestos-related lung injuries. Owens Corning was trying to recover billions of dollars paid out in asbestos settlement cases by arguing the tobacco industry shared some of the blame for the health problems.
Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports over ten thousand Americans die each year as a result of asbestos exposure. EWG highlights this epidemic:
The highly politicized controversy in Washington over asbestos litigation has overshadowed a quiet and directly related crisis in public health: an epidemic of asbestos-caused diseases in the United States that claims the life of one out of every 125 American men who die over the age of 50.
Ten thousand Americans die each year — a rate approaching 30 deaths per day — from diseases caused by asbestos, according to a detailed analysis of government mortality records and epidemiological studies by the EWG Action Fund. Asbestos kills thousands more people than skin cancer each year, and nearly the number that are slain in assaults with firearms. The suite of diseases linked to asbestos exposure overwhelmingly affect older men.
Mesothelioma is not the only killer. Based on government reports EWG found the following asbestos caused illnesses resulting in death:
- Mesothelioma 2,509 deaths
- Asbestosis 1,398 deaths
- Lung Cancer 4,800 deaths
- Gastro-intestinal cancer 1,200 deaths
- Total 9,907 deaths
EWG’s findings only get more disturbing:
…[D]deaths from asbestos in the United States appear to be increasing. Mesothelioma and asbestosis mortality rose steadily from 1979 through 1998. Asbestosis mortality, however, rose at more than three times the rate of mesothelioma, at 7.8 percent per year, compared to 2.3 percent annually for mesothelioma over the 24-year period 1979-2001.
Exposure to Asbestos peaked in the mid to late 1970’s. Based on the latency period for asbestos illnesses to develop EWG believes the mortality rate will increase for the next ten years and peak in by 2014 when "there will be 3,776 deaths from mesothelioma and 2,536 deaths from asbestosis reported to the federal government."
Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.
Four hundred bicyclists from across the globe took part in the 400-mile Cycling the Erie Canal Tour in mid-July to raise awareness for mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, says R News.
The sixth annual ride lasted eight days, beginning in Buffalo, N.Y., and wrapping up in Albany, N.Y.
While there is no known cure for mesothelioma, family members of those suffering from the disease hoped the tour would raise awareness.
“We think of them (the victims) in their best ways, in their best moments,” said Bob Good, who lost his sister and brother-in-law to the disease last year. “Doing some things that are positive and upbeat is a great way to capture the spirit they had, that they gave to everyone they came in contact with.”
If you breathe asbestos fibers into your lungs, some of the fibers will be deposited in the air passages and on the cells that make up your lungs. Most fibers are removed from your lungs by being carried away or coughed up in a layer of mucus to the throat, where they are swallowed into the stomach. This usually takes place within a few hours. Fibers that are deposited in the deepest parts of the lung are removed more slowly. In fact, some fibers may move through your lungs and can remain in place for many years and may never be removed from your body. Amphibole asbestos fibers are retained in the lung longer than chrysotile asbestos fibers.
The federal government develops regulations and recommendations to protect public health. Regulations can be enforced by law. Federal agencies that develop regulations for toxic substances include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recommendations provide valuable guidelines to protect public health but cannot be enforced by law. Federal organizations that develop recommendations for toxic substances include the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Asbestos exposure in both children and adults may occur while breathing air in or near buildings (public or private) containing asbestos building materials or near asbestos-related industrial operations. Children breathe differently and have different lung structures than adults. It is not known if these differences may cause a greater amount of asbestos fibers to stay in the lungs of a child when they are breathed in than in the lungs of an adult. Children drink more fluids per kilogram of body weight than adults and can also be exposed through asbestos-contaminated drinking water.
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos.
- Shortness of breath and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleura are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma.
- Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and abdominal pain and swelling due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen.
- Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia , and fever.
- If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.
These symptoms may be caused by mesothelioma or by other, less serious conditions. It is important to see a doctor about any of these symptoms. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis.