Cancer » Asbestos Cancer
Asbestos cancer is one of the rarest forms of cancer. The main cause of the disease is an excess exposure to the asbestos or glass particles. Though the disease is specifically related to an asbestos exposure, not every cancer caused due to an exposure to asbestos is asbestos cancer. Some other types of cancers like the prostate cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, colorectal cancer and the breast cancer are also caused due to inhalation of asbestos particles. Exposure to asbestos may also lead to lung cancer.
Understanding the disease
Asbestos cancer mainly affects your heart, abdomen and the lungs. It mostly originates in the pleura (body cavity that surrounds the lungs) or the peritoneum (abdominal cavity lining). It may also occur in your tunica vaginalis (sac surrounding the testis) or the pericardium (sac surrounding the heart). In most of the cases, mesothelioma occurs in the pleura mainly affecting the lungs. Pleura mesothelioma is different from the lung cancer. It does not originate from the lungs but the pleural tissue.
Asbestos is a group of minerals occurring naturally as the fiber bundles. They are actually the silicate compounds and can be converted into very thin threads. These threads, when inhaled excessively, may obstruct the sufficient passage of oxygen and cause breathing problems. When these fiber threads enter your body, they affect the healthy cells and disturb the whole mechanism of the cell-growth. Thus, tumors are formed and affect the whole inhalation system of your body.
A membrane known as the mesothelium surrounds most of the vital organs of our body. A kind of lubricating fluid is secreted by this membrane. This fluid eases the movement of organs in our body. When this membrane gets caught by the cancerous cells, the movement of organs gets affected leading to the disease called mesothelioma.
Detecting this disease is not an easy task. A person may show the symptoms of the disease anywhere between 20-50 years after his initial exposure to the asbestos particles. Smoking is not the prime cause of this cancer but makes the person more prone to the disease as compared to the non-smokers.
The cancer is curable if detected at an early stage. So, it is important to understand the symptoms of the disease so that the diagnosis and the further course of treatment become easier. Breathing problem is the most important symptom of the disease. As the cancerous cells mainly affect the lungs, you need to consult your doctor immediately in case of any difficulties in breathing. Dry cough and blood in your sputum is another alarming signal. Some may also experience a pain in the chest walls or the abdomen.
The disease can be cured using various kinds of treatments like surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The nature and pattern of treatment usually depends on the severity of the disease. Also, a different line of treatment needs to be considered for each patient depending upon his capacity to sustain the side-effects.
Radiotherapy helps in reducing breathlessness and pain and it is advised when only a small area needs to be treated. Pleurectomy is another kind of treatment in which a surgery is done to remove the affected tissues or the lung as a whole and is usually recommended only to treat small tumors. Chemotherapy is done if the patient shows less or no response to the other kinds of treatment. Latest techniques like the CT (computed tomography) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, biopsy and X-rays are used to examine the body internally and detect the location of the tumor. The techniques also help in finding the extent to which the cancerous cells may have spread.
There are many other kinds of treatments recommended for the disease but most of them have a considerable amount of side effects. Hence, the line of treatment must be decided carefully after consulting with a cancer specialist.
People working in the shipbuilding, construction, asbestos-mining or any other industries related to the use of asbestos are directly prone to asbestos cancer. The disease may develop slowly but once the cancerous cells are formed, they spread rapidly in the body affecting the vital organs like lungs, heart and the abdomen. Hence, any symptom related to the disease must not be taken lightly as timely diagnosis will help in opting for the best suitable treatment and minimize its side effects considerably.