Yes, you read it right. Millions of people are dying every year due to occupational exposure to asbestos worldwide. Here, we will try to find how does the asbestos exposure and mesothelioma are related.
Today, asbestos is used for construction, insulation, Power generation, chemical, textile, shipbuilding, automotive, and many other industries including food processing and pharmaceutical products from long ago.
Repeated exposure to asbestos on the job puts workers at the risk of several pulmonary diseases and cancers. These conditions may develop decades after the workers were initially exposed to asbestos or similar material.
Before getting into the details, we need to understand mesothellium membrane first.
You must be knowing that mesothellium membrane is the layer of cells that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body.
The main purpose of these cells is to produce a lubricating fluid that is released between layers, providing a slippery, non-adhesive, and protective surface to facilitate intracoelomic movement i.e. within hollow cavity.
Mesothellium membrane can be found at various locations of the body like;
- Pleura – Lining of the Lung
- Peritoneum – Lining of the Abdomen
- Pericardium – Lining of the Heart
- Tunica Vaginalis – Lining of the testis
Mesothelioma is a cancer in which the cells of mesothelium become abnormal and start to divide without control. They get invade and damage nearby tissues and organs.
As we know that, these cancer cells can spread from their original site to other parts of the body. Thus causing malignancy.
In this instance, it is the exposure to asbestos fibres probably causes inflammation leading to mutations. When asbestos fibres are inhaled or ingested, they can enter the mesothelium of lung, chest cavity or abdominal cavity and injure the cells.
Hence, the normal control over cell division and death are lost. Eventually giving rise to malignant tumours.
- Pleural Mesothelioma – It affects the pleura i.e. linings of lung and chest wall. It is found in more than 90% of cases. As the original site is the pleura, it is different from lung cancer. The symptoms may include breathlessness, pleural effusion (fluid on the lungs), chest pain, tiredness and fatigue.
- Peritoneum Mesothelioma – It affects the lining of abdominal cavity. The symptoms may include abdominal swelling due to fluid build-up accompanied by abdominal pain, weight loss, and loss of appetite.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma – It affects the lining of membranes covering heart cavity. It is very much lethal and rare form of disease. Fluid in the pericardial space, shortness of breath, fever, chest pain, weight loss, and heart palpitations are the symptoms of this pericardial cancer.
- Testicular Mesothelioma – It is the rarest of all. It affects the coverings of testicles of male and/or female.
- There is no early detection of this cancer and it starts silently. Hence, it is advised to do a chest X-ray once a year as there is no screening test for asbestos exposure.
- Also, X-rays, CT scans, and MRI’s can be used to help diagnose mesothelioma and other asbestos related disease like asbestosis, pleural plaques, and cancer.
For decades, most workers and the general public had no idea of consequences due to asbestos exposure.
Though many of the industries are performing regular awareness training, workers must take proper steps to prevent asbestos exposure at workplaces.