Mesothelioma Awareness: Asbestos and Its Latent Dangers

Awareness & Research
Reading Time: 5 mins
Publication Date: 11/17/2020

Kristen Campbell is pursuing a business management degree at Colorado State University Global Campus. She is the first-place winner of the Fall 2020 scholarship.

In my profession, I have direct contact with mesothelioma patients. I am responsible for delivering therapeutic and concentrated radiation doses to shrink or remove cancer and tumors.

I’ve personally witnessed the physical challenges and mental exhaustion of those suffering from mesothelioma. I’ve seen the pained looks in the eyes of loved ones as I take the patient back for another treatment. I’ve hugged our patients after their treatment is complete and heard them say, “I hope I don’t have to see you here again.”

When these situations occur, one thought always enters my head: How had the disease progress not been detected earlier or prevented altogether? Difficulty breathing, chronic dry cough, unexplained weight loss and abdominal swelling are among the uncomfortable symptoms of mesothelioma. Why does it have to reach this point?

In pursuing my business management degree, I hope to have a platform that fosters education and awareness of asbestos exposure in countless communities. It is disheartening to feel as though you could have done more.

As a caregiver for mesothelioma patients, exceptional quality of care is my top priority. Quality of care isn’t defined by merely the services provided to treat cancer. It is also comprised of educating the public about carcinogenic elements such as asbestos that can be detected early so we encounter fewer people requiring medical intervention.

Etiology of Mesothelioma

What exactly is the carcinogenic material called asbestos? Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals composed of thin fibers, often used in the automobile, construction, manufacturing and chemical industries. It has many properties that have kept it around for its practical and commercial benefits.

Negative health effects of asbestos were observed years ago but not prioritized. When asbestos fibers are damaged, perhaps by DIY projects Americans love to take on or by fixing up automobiles, those fibers become airborne as toxic dust and damage lungs when breathed in.

Chronic inhalation of these toxic fibers may lead to mesothelioma, which is a form of cancer most commonly found on the lining of the lungs, heart and abdomen.

The most alarming fact is that most asbestos-related diseases are diagnosed at least 20 years after exposure, according to the American Cancer Society. Another alarming fact is that asbestos exposure is the No. 1 cause of mesothelioma.

Limiting Asbestos Exposure to Prevent Health Risks

There are many ways to prevent exposure to asbestos. However, gaining knowledge about carcinogens is crucial in limiting or preventing exposure to them.

Those who are directly exposed to asbestos or indirectly exposed by family members or friends are at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. Many individuals may be in contact with asbestos at work, without their knowledge, due to the nature of their work.

Some of the occupations known to have a risk of exposure to asbestos include electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, insulators, demolition workers, brake mechanics and home remodelers.

If an individual were to work in any of these professions, wearing the proper protective equipment and showering and changing clothes before going home could protect them and their loved ones from asbestos exposure.

Detecting Asbestos in Your Home

One of the most significant ways mesothelioma can be prevented or lessened is to understand where asbestos is most commonly found.

A key indicator that a structure might contain asbestos material is the year of construction. Asbestos was most commonly used in the construction of homes and other buildings before the 1980s.

Awareness of asbestos products and their components is crucial for early detection. Some common products include roof shingles, fireproofing, ceiling and floor tiles, spray-on insulation and textured paint.

Educating more Americans about these potential “red flags” could prevent chronic exposure to asbestos.

If you are uncertain whether there is asbestos in your home, hire a certified asbestos abatement professional to conduct an inspection. Remember, early detection of asbestos could save lives.

Raising Awareness of Asbestos Exposure

As a health care professional, I’m desperate to witness a decrease in mesothelioma cases. It is our responsibility to share the knowledge we have about asbestos exposure.

Many years ago, the asbestos industry wouldn’t stop using asbestos because it was too great an asset. Fortunately, as more knowledge, research and awareness have been brought to the forefront, decreased use of asbestos has occurred.

However, we should not stop there. We can write to elected officials about banning products with asbestos or raise funds to promote mesothelioma research.

There are individuals avoiding a scary diagnosis because of an increased awareness of asbestos exposure. That fact alone changes everything for me.

As a caregiver who desires to see fewer occurrences of this disease, I am passionate about bringing change to the health industry — one incredibly important person at a time.