Did you know that today, September 26, is the tenth annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day? I certainly was nut "aware" of it until Heather, fellow mom of a Lily and most of all mesothelioma survivor has contacted me to share vital information on this horrible disease.
Unlike breast cancer, prostate cancer (in recent years at least), or leukemia awareness, mesothelioma does not have a lobby that is being heard, even though the disease is extremely deadly and also very preventable.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an agressive soft tissue cancer that affects either the abdominal cavity (peritoneal m.), the heart (pericardial m.), or - in two thirds of all cases - the lung (pleural m.). In most cases, the life expectancy after diagnosis is less than a year. Among the patients under 45, about 37% survive for five years, among patients 45 - 54 years of age, the 5-year survival rate drops to about 20%. (source: Asbestos.com) In comparison, the 5-year survival rate of stage IV breast cancer (the most serious stage) is at 22%; stage II and III have a survival rate of 93% and 72%, respectively. (source: American Cancer Society)
What causes mesothelioma?
Asbestos, a group of naturally occurring minerals, which are used as an insulating material in buildings, ships, etc., is the only cause of mesothelioma. Even a very short exposure of less than three months can cause mesothelioma, which oftentimes lays dormant for 15 to 20 years or longer until the disease breaks out. (source: Wikipedia)
Who is affected by mesothelioma?
Besides asbestos miners and their family, military veterans are a group with above-average mesothelioma rates. With asbestos being used as insulating materials for ship pipes, military personnel working on ships or in shipyard were often exposed to asbestos for years. And even if they did not work with asbestos directly, secondary exposure from asbestos dust from clothes, hair, tools, etc. is nearly as dangerous as working with the material directly (source: Mesothelioma.com).
How can I protect myself from asbestos?
Unfortunately, the United States are one of the only Western nation that has not yet banned asbestos as a building material. Especially if you live in an older house, there is a good chance that it contains asbestos. While asbestos most likely does not pose an acute risk while being undisturbed, home improvement projects may disturb the asbestos layer and release dangerous asbestos dust into the air of your home. If you are building a home, inform yourself about the materials used and opt for asbestos-free building material. Should you need to renovate your home and asbestos is used in your home, invest in a specialist to remove and dispose of the abestos safely. It may be costly, but it may just save your or your family's lives.
Luckily, Heather, the daughter of an asbestos miner, is one of the 37% surviving mesothelioma, but it came with a price. In 2006, she had one of her lungs, the left side of her diaphragm and the lining of her heart removed. Ever since, she is working hard to raise awareness of this horrible disease. For more information, visit The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog and meet Heather and other survivors.
Please also share about Mesothelioma Awareness Day to draw attention to this disease and the fight against it. Thank you to Heather for sharing her information with me!