Written by: The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
It seems almost everyone today knows asbestos is a dangerous substance much like lead. If pressed however, it can be confusing why that is. In truth, asbestos has been used for thousands of years dating back to the ancient Greeks. It amazed people throughout history with its ability to prevent and halt fires if used in building materials. It was even used as fake snow in holiday decorations and in movies.
After decades of mining and eventually installing these products in homes, people began to get sick. Their breath came shorter, their chests ached, and they began to show more serious health symptoms. Eventually, it was tied to a condition called asbestosis and a rare cancer called mesothelioma. Many of these exposed were military workers, including naval personnel, where asbestos was used predominantly as insulation. Industrial workers, miners, and construction and deconstruction crews were among others impacted by asbestos exposure. Many people were also exposed secondhand from inhaling fibers brought home in the hair or on the clothing of someone working in those fields.
The last asbestos mine in Canada closed in 2011, and it is projected there will be a complete ban in place by 2018.
The connection between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma was discovered in the 1970s. Mesothelioma is most commonly found in the lining of the lungs, but can also be found in the lining of the abdomen and heart, and is exclusively caused by inhaling asbestos fibres. Unfortunately, it can take between 10-40 years for symptoms to become recognizable, so it is often diagnosed in its later stages. Even with a ban coming, there are still people from previous decades whose symptoms have yet to present.
Once diagnosed, treatment options include radiation and chemotherapy as well as surgery. These three options are often used in combination therapies, referred to as multimodal treatments. Also available, for those who are accepted into the clinical trials, is immunotherapy. This type of experimental treatment utilizes the body’s own immune system to fight off cancer.
In order to minimize or eliminate the possibility of exposure to asbestos, it’s important to know whether or not it exists within a home or building. It’s recommended to always contact a licensed professional when an assessment or abatement needs to be done to minimize any potential risks.