30 September 2015

Mesothelioma Awareness Day: What You Need to Know About Mesothelioma Cancer

I stumbled upon this sad story on Daily Mail about an art teacher, who died from lung cancer 'after years of pinning pupils' work to asbestos-lined classroom walls'.

Jennifer Barnett, 60 passed away last September, just 14 months after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma - a cancer whose most common cause is asbestos. Her husband, Nigel, told an inquest into her death in January that his wife worked at various schools as an art teacher from 1977 until 1995, often hanging paintings on walls containing asbestos.

What is Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive cancer affecting the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. It is a fatal disease caused almost exclusively by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers.

Asbestos is commonly used in many construction and consumer products for its versatility, strength, fire resistant and resistance to fire or heat. In 1935, medical researchers made a first probable causal relationship between exposure to asbestos and lung cancer. Seven years later, a member of the National Cancer Institute confirmed asbestos as a cause of lung cancer.

People who work in asbestos mines, asbestos mills and factories, and shipyards that use asbestos, as well as people who manufacture and install asbestos insulation, have an increased risk of mesothelioma. So do people who live with asbestos workers, near asbestos mining areas, near asbestos product factories or near shipyards where use of asbestos has produced large quantities of airborne asbestos fibers.

According to this statistic, approximately 3,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Between 1999 and 2010, more than 31,000 people in the U.S. died due to mesothelioma. From 1999 to 2010, the number of people who died each year in the U.S. from mesothelioma as an underlying or contributing cause increased by 10%.

Asbestos in Your Home 
A few years back when we renovated our home, I remember our contractor asked us what material would we like to choose for our bathroom ceiling tiles. We choose ceiling planks over asbestos based ceiling tiles because we find it way cheaper. Little did I know that asbestos exposure can actually lead to serious health risk.

Asbestos containing material is not generally harmful unless it is friable, means that the asbestos is easily crumbled by hand, releasing dust or fibers into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested. For example, if an asbestos ceiling tile is drilled or broken, it may release fibers into the air.

Asbestos is commonly found in:
  • Asbestos cement on garage or shed roofs
  • Asbestos cement on shed and garage wall panels
  • Asbestos cement drain pipes
  • Asbestos cement or insulation board
  • soffit, infill panels and partitions
  • Asbestos cement on the side of bath panels
  • Roof felt or lining panels
  • Roof sheets or tiles
  • Asbestos cement cold water tanks
  • Old ventilation pipes
  • Textured coatings (Artex) and ceiling panels
  • Hot water pipe insulation
  • Panels behind fires or heaters
  • Fire door panels
  • Floor tiles and linoleum products in kitchens and bathrooms
  • Some old toilet seats and cisterns, (usually black)
Examples of ceiling that may contain asbestos cement sheeting in older Malaysia’s homes built in the 1970 and 80′s. But quite often, plywood was used as well. Image from Malaysian Asbestos Removal Guide. 

Asbestos is still not banned globally, and can be found in older buildings, homes, and consumer products such as crayons and children’s toys.

Most Common Mesothelioma Symptoms
The most common symptoms of mesothelioma are:
  • Dry Cough or Wheezing
  • Shortness of Breath (dyspnea)
  • Respiratory Complications or Difficulty Breathing
  • Pain in the Chest or Abdomen
  • Fever
  • Pleural Effusions

Mesothelioma Prevention
The best way to reduce your risk of mesothelioma is to prevent or limit your exposure to asbestos at home, in public buildings, and at work.

At work, protective gear should be worn any time the presence of asbestos is suspected. Any clothes worn while working with asbestos should be left at the site. Wearing asbestos-covered clothes outside the work area could subject others to unwanted exposure.

At home, you should always wear protective gear when doing any serious renovation work on a home built prior to 1980. Do-it-yourself projects can catch non-professionals off guard. Do take every precaution to avoid damaging asbestos-containing material. Keep activities to a minimum in any areas having damaged material that may contain asbestos, including limiting children's access to any materials that may contain asbestos. Don't dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. If you cannot avoid walking through the area, have it cleaned with a wet mop or call an asbestos professional if a large area must be cleaned.

Mesothelioma Awareness Day
Mesothelioma Awareness Day was on Saturday, September 26th. I have to admit I am a little late on this game but I would be remiss if I didn't talk about this deadly but preventable cancer. Thank you Cameron Von St. James and his blogger wife and mesothelioma survivor, Heather Von St. James, for tagging me along into this good cause.

Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma 9 years ago. She was unknowingly exposed to asbestos as a young girl by wearing her father's work jacket to do outside chores. Her doctor gave her 15 months to live, but after a highly-invasive surgery that involved the removal of her left lung, Heather is now a survivor! She now works to spread awareness with her husband Cameron.

What can you do to help: 
Help us spread the word and raise awareness of Mesothelioma by donate your social status here or get on Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtags #MesoAwarenessDay to helps raise support and awareness of mesothelioma.

Leave your comments below when you done sharing. I always love to hear feedback from you. Have a good day!

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