Learn About What Mesothelioma Is

Mesothelioma is one of the most aggressive cancers known to medical science. It forms on the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart or reproductive system organs. According to the National Cancer Institute, it ranks among the most virulent malignancies.

Tens of thousands of Americans carry this cancer within their bodies. There are approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Mesothelioma grows fast and — even if treated — kills fast. It is typically discovered too late to successfully combat, unless you know you’re at risk and are on the lookout for it.

In most cases, mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. You are at-risk if you served in the Navy or worked in a blue-collar trade — or lived with someone who did. Men are far more likely than women to get mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma by the Numbers

The Onset of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma develops very slowly. It usually appears anywhere from two to five decades after you have been exposed to asbestos. For that reason, most people do not begin to show symptoms until they are older than 45. The overwhelming majority of patients are at least 65 when diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society.  

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure

You are at the highest risk for mesothelioma if you had prolonged contact with asbestos. Asbestos was used in many home products and in the workplace.

This is especially true for workers in construction and related fields — such as electricians, plumbers, roofers, carpenters and welders. Mechanics and other laborers were also often exposed. Asbestos also served as a strategic material important to national defense — the Navy made extensive use of it aboard virtually every ship in the fleet.

Exposure to asbestos means you either inhaled or swallowed tiny fibers of the mineral. That can happen because asbestos products tend to give off dust. The dust is composed of those tiny fibers.

Once inside your body, the fibers remain there. They then very gradually corrupt the genes of the cells that make up the lining surrounding your lungs, abdominal organs, heart or reproductive system. In time, those cells turn cancerous. Prompt medical attention is the key to ensuring your hope of long survival.