Asbestos & Mesothelioma Lung Cancer

All over the world, more than 100 million individuals are potentially suffering from mesothelioma lung cancer. According to Mesothelioma Help (you can check mesothelioma is a highly aggressive form of cancer that generally attacks the lining of the lungs. Other serous membranes can be affected as well. More than 4 out of 5 cases of mesothelioma lung cancer are caused by exposure to asbestos. As a matter of fact, patients who have been exposed to asbestos will eventually develop mesothelioma at any time in the future

How Can Asbestos Exposure Lead to Mesothelioma Lung Cancer?

Asbestos is a type of silicate mineral that is typically composed of very thin fibrous crystals. Each fibrous strand is made up of millions of smaller, microscopic fibrils. While asbestos, on a macroscopic level is tough, microscopically it isn’t. The fibrils can be easily released by simple abrasive forces as well as other forces. This means that if you were to hit an asbestos board onto a wall, you are essentially releasing millions of microfibrils into the air. It is these microfibrils that will initiate the series of events that lead to the development of mesothelioma lung cancer.

Microfibrils are very lightweight and can remain suspended in the air for an indefinite period of time. If you breathe in this air, you are also inhaling these microfibrils where they attach to the alveoli in the lungs. Because these are essentially silicate crystals, they scrape and damage the epithelial lining of the alveoli and pass right through the pleura of the lungs. The pleura is the outer covering of the lungs and is made of several types of cells, one of which is mesothelium.

The microscopic nature of the silicate crystals allow them to be incorporated into the cell’s DNA. This leads to the activation of specific oncogenes, the prevention of apoptosis, and the inactivation of the cell’s tumor suppressor genes. In other words, you now have mesothelioma lung cancer in the making.

The cell that carries the asbestos-affected gene replicates and conveys the same cancer-generating genetic material to daughter cells. Remembering elementary biology, a single cell will produce 2 identical daughter cells through the process of cell division. Because the parent cell carries the cancer gene, all offspring will carry the cancerous material. Over time the neoplasm grows until clinical manifestations become very discernible.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma Lung Cancer?

The initial clinical manifestation of mesothelioma may not actually point to the presence of the cancer. This is because these are non-specific signs and symptoms that can mean other health problems. These include the following.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain
  • Cough
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Easy fatigability

As you can see these manifestations are generally not specific to mesothelioma lung cancer. For instance, shortness of breath can also be seen among people with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Cough can mean a simple throat irritation. It is also for this reason that the diagnosis of mesothelioma lung cancer can be ascertained if a history of exposure to asbestos can be established. While asbestos is not the only cause of mesothelioma, it narrows down your most likely culprits if your doctor can ascertain in your history that you have been exposed to asbestos.

Can Mesothelioma Lung Cancer be Treated?

As a general rule the earlier the diagnosis of mesothelioma lung cancer is made the better is the prognosis. This is directly related to the metastatic potential of the tumor. If it has already spread to other parts of the body or has already grown substantial network of blood vessels, surgery is usually no longer an option. Your choices will now be limited to chemotherapy or radiation therapy or even a combination of both. Sadly, any systemic cancer treatment can produce a variety of serious side-effects such as reduction in immune system functioning and the death of healthy normal cells.

The relationship between asbestos and mesothelioma lung cancer is profound. Like all cancers, it takes many years for the cancer to begin presenting symptoms. Even by that time the symptoms will not be specific to mesothelioma. Only by establishing a history of asbestos exposure can the diagnosis of mesothelioma lung cancer be made with greater confidence.

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