What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an extremely painful and incurable cancer of the protective lining of the lungs, internal organs, and/or heart. This lining is called the mesothelium. Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lungs, is the most common type of mesothelioma.
What causes mesothelioma?
Asbestos exposure, specifically inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers, causes mesothelioma. Asbestos fibers are very tiny and sharp. Your immune system cannot break them down or get rid of them, but it will continue to try. This process causes inflammation, eventually leading to tumors and cancer.
Is mesothelioma the same thing as lung cancer?
No, but it is easy to confuse the two. Lung cancer is cancer of the lung tissue itself, whereas pleural mesothelioma is cancer of the membrane around the lungs. Asbestos exposure causes both.
Who can get mesothelioma?
Some doctors believe that inhaling just one asbestos fiber can potentially lead to mesothelioma. Anyone who is exposed to asbestos can get it, and most people are exposed at some point in their lives.
People who live, work, or go to school in older buildings are at an elevated risk of developing mesothelioma. People who work with or around asbestos are the most likely to develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. High risk industries and environments include:
- Steel mills
- Oil refineries
- Power plants
What products contain asbestos?
Asbestos is heat and fire resistant, and has been used in thousands of products since the late 1800s. Construction materials for every part of a building, small appliances, common household items, automotive parts, and many industrial products are made with asbestos.
What other health problems are caused by asbestos exposure?
Asbestos may cause other kinds of cancer including:
- Lung cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Larynx cancer
It can also cause non-cancerous lung diseases including:
- Asbestos pleural disease
Asbestos-related illnesses can lead to heart failure.