A past of asbestos brings present mesothelioma

According to UK Health and Safety Executive, asbestos related diseases are the leading cause of national work related deaths, responsible for about 4000 deaths annually. Classified as a Type 1 carcinogen by World Health Organization, asbestos is known to cause several severe respiratory illnesses including fatal cancer mesothelioma. Following last century’s heavy asbestos use, seen worldwide, this century’s workforce is dealing with high risks of exposure to the toxin.

Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits have been filed over the years as employees realize risks and dangers of their workplace and accuse their bosses of negligence. Although many employers have been ignorantly uneducated of asbestos risks, or just ignorant to its presence, others have intentionally hidden or minimized dangers, to the detriment of their workers.

Mesothelioma is characterized by a latency period of several decades. For most mesothelioma patients, symptoms that demonstrate at the end of this time, during the disease’s final and most aggressive stage, are the first warning signs they get of the cancer’s presence. Sadly, there is little that can be done so late in mesothelioma development.

Mesothelioma treatments are available, but there is no known cure. Standard treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These are often administered in combination as palliative care, focusing on making the patient more comfortable and extending their life expectancy. Some radical treatments are also available for patients who meet certain criteria.

Because of heavy asbestos use in large-scale industry and manufacturing through the last century, mesothelioma has historically been considered an industrial disease. However, countless products stabilized with asbestos fibers and installed decades ago in homes, offices, schools and municipal buildings, are now beginning to break down and release asbestos fibers. Everyday life for those who have never spent a day in industry could be providing ample opportunity for toxic asbestos exposure.

Safety officials around the world are changing their regulations, protocols and emergency response techniques in light of this unique danger. Public health is now at risk from the very air. Specifically affected are contractors and repair workers handling components of older buildings.  Respiratory protection is fast becoming just a minimum safety precaution for even the simplest job.

World Health Organization estimates mesothelioma cases are on the rise globally as potential for asbestos exposure grows. About twenty thousand cases are recorded annually around the world, but thousands more are expected to be unnoted. If asbestos use and handling is not greatly and quickly curbed mesothelioma case numbers could be pushing one hundred thousand within the next few decades.

Mesothelioma patients help create awareness for a changing patient base

More and more mesothelioma survivors are getting involved with mesothelioma and asbestos awareness groups. Particularly, patients who are living past the expected average of eighteen months are using today’s many communication resources to spread the word about their disease, mesothelioma treatments, and experiences.  First hand patient insights from a changing patient base have become a major factor in getting the word out to people who would not otherwise consider themselves at risk.

Once considered strictly an ‘industrial disease’ mesothelioma is now broadening its patient inclusions.  As mesothelioma case numbers in the US and around the world rise, awareness and public education needs related to the fatal cancer, and its cause, are changing too. According to Adrian Budgen of law firm Irwin Mithcell in UK, as quoted in The Star’s July 5 article, “Asbestos has long been associated with heavy industry but sadly we are seeing an increasing number of people from other sectors – such as health and education – falling victim to diseases like mesothelioma.

“Over the years, as asbestos-containing materials began to deteriorate and crumble, many UK workers were inhaling the lethal fibres as they went about their daily tasks, completely unaware of the dangers they were facing, putting them at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.”

This demographic change is true of patients in UK and worldwide as well. About three thousand Americans suffer with mesothelioma each year, while the global number is estimated closer to twenty thousand. World Health Organization expects ninety thousand cases in the near future if the use of asbestos—mesothelioma’s cause—is not completely discontinued.

World Health Organization classifies asbestos as a Type 1 carcinogen. Heavily used through the last century in industry, construction and military manufacturing, asbestos is present in countless structures, and products worldwide. Today, as asbestos-containing components break down or are demolished, toxic asbestos fibers are released into the air causing a severe health threat.

Once asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested they can begin a cancerous growth process in otherwise healthy cells. Most often spreading through protective lining of inner organs, mesothelioma forms irregular web-like patterns of malignant tumors around lungs, heart or diaphragm.  Mesothelioma treatments are available, typically including a combination of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. While radical treatments exist, most mesothelioma treatments are considered palliative and focus on extending patient life expectancy and raising quality of life.

Mesothelioma is characterized by a long latency period, often between twenty and fifty years. Symptoms do not demonstrate until the last and most aggressive stage of the disease, at which time they mimic those of bronchitis and pneumonia; these factors make mesothelioma extremely difficult to detect.

Mesothelioma caused by restaurant oven seals

Mesothelioma has long been considered an industrial disease; patients diagnosed with mesothelioma often have a background in mining, shipbuilding, fuel refineries and other large-scale works. This is due to the cancer’s cause, asbestos, being used in such industries for its fire resistance, durability and insulating qualities. Industrial employees were often in direct contact with raw asbestos, greatly heightening their chances of fiber inhalation that leads to mesothelioma.

However, the amount of mesothelioma cases that have come out of direct asbestos contact could be greatly surpassed by slower, subtler exposure.  Through the last century countless construction and consumer products were built and manufactured using asbestos as a stabilizer. Now, decades later those components are beginning to break down. Floor and ceiling tiles that were once intact have endured years of wear and tear. Older buildings are being torn down and replaced. Through slow damage and intentional demolition asbestos fibers are being released into the air causing a threat to public safety.

One man knows too well that you don’t have to work in a shipyard or oil refinery to develop fatal mesothelioma. Luigi Pes, an Italian chef in Salisbury England, was diagnosed early in 2008 with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos during his employment at La Gondola restaurant in the 1980s. In addition to some asbestos-containing ceiling material present in the establishment, Pes believes asbestos in the oven seals of the restaurant’s kitchen caused his case of mesothelioma.

In the Salisbury Journal’s July 5th article on the topic, Pes says, “For many years I worked there with no idea about the damage asbestos could do to my health. In later years when I became aware about the dangers of asbestos, I had an idea that I had been exposed but I never expected that I would end up with this disease.

“Despite my progressive illness and the restrictions it brings, I’m doing my best to enjoy each day I have left. I’m not angry but I do feel strongly that more should have been done to protect me from getting this disease.”

Pes sought legal action and was able to settle out of court for a six-figure compensation amount. Pes is married and has two grown children. His attorney, Stephen Loach, from legal firm, Thompsons Solicitors, says in the same Salisbury Journal article: “I investigated the case for Mr. Pes urgently and pursued it vigorously so that he could benefit from the compensation during his lifetime. While this will never make up for Mr Pes’ poor health it will at least afford him some financial relief and the knowledge that the employers who caused his suffering have been held to account.”


$3.58 million goes to much needed mesothelioma research

An anonymous donor has recently gifted 3.58 million dollars to University of Hawaii’s Cancer Center to be used in mesothelioma research. With most gifts of this size going to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, this gift to UH is a welcome surprise, bringing the university one step closer to becoming a leader in cancer research.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer affecting protective linings of abdominal cavities, most often lung lining. It is caused by exposure to toxic asbestos fibers and characterized by a long latency period ranging from twenty to fifty years. Mesothelioma life expectancy is short and grim, averaging eighteen months following diagnosis.

Mesothelioma treatments include surgeries, chemotherapies and radiation therapy. While many of these are used as cancer direct treatments, they are often administered as part of a palliative care plan, focusing on raising patient quality of life and extending life expectancy.

There is currently no known cure for mesothelioma. Asbestos continues to be used around the world and experts expect a quick rise in global mesothelioma cases if the toxic chemical is not banned immediately. Currently, an estimated twenty thousand patients suffer with mesothelioma worldwide each year.

Mesothelioma patient self-prescribes vitamins, exercise, and triathlon

Unlike many fathers who spent time with their families over special lunches or dinners this past Father’s Day, Larry Davis took part in a Father’s Day Weekend Triathlon. Even more unorthodox than the way he spent his Father’s Day, is his reasoning; Davis took his daughter’s advice and signed up for the triathlon as a “good distraction” from hid day in and day out battle against rare cancer mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a respiratory cancer caused by asbestos, most often affecting lung-lining tissue. Characterized by a long latency period—often twenty to fifty years—mesothelioma patients are typically diagnosed later in life, well past a time when standard mesothelioma treatments have any curative effects.  Much like his choices for Father’s Day celebrations, Davis’s mesothelioma treatments have veered from the well-beaten path.

Although Davis is scheduled for his fifth mesothelioma surgery later this month, he has chosen a non-traditional approach to fighting cancer. Rather than the standard chemotherapies and radiation treatments prescribed, Davis has combated mesothelioma with vitamins, supplements and exercise to boost his immune system.

Davis recognizes the rarity of his health choices. He says, “I’m an enigma in a lot of ways. This thing (mesothelioma) is like going to a casino. To win, you have to be very lucky. It’s designed for you to lose. All you’re trying to do in the fight is make the odds a little more in your favor.

“The health care side of this has been a nightmare. There are too many doctors out there — some so-called authorities — who don’t really know what they’re doing, using treatments from the ’70s that just don’t work, copying someone else’s failures. I would have been dead long ago, if I had listened to some of the medical professionals and the treatments they suggested. I’ve learned the hard way that there are some pain medications, even some anesthetics, that (do) more harm than good.”

In preparation for the Triathlon this past weekend Davis took swimming lessons. “I was a runner. I’ve always run,” he said. “Swimming just isn’t my thing. I might be the only one in the race this weekend wearing water wings. I’ve become proof that a rock can swim. The triathlon has taken my mind off the surgery, and it has forced me to become healthier and physically stronger for the surgery.”

Davis has committed much of his time to raising awareness and funds for mesothelioma research. In the upcoming International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, in Washington, D.C., June 23-25, Davis—and Linda Reinstein, founder of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization—will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award.

This past weekend however, Davis and his daughter Courtney were focused on their triathlon goals and time together. Courtney said, “There is nowhere else I’d rather be on Father’s Day than with him in a triathlon. With this next surgery, we don’t know what’s around the corner for him, but he’s always been a fighter. And he’s not about to give up this fight anytime soon.”

Additional mesothelioma benefits for Libby, Montana

After years of asbestos exposure, Libby, Montana continues to live under a cloud of side effects and hazards associated with former W.R. Grace & Co. mine. For decades vermiculite mined from the Libby site tainted surrounding areas with asbestos fibers caught in the strands of vermiculite being excavated. Instances of mesothelioma and other asbestos related illnesses reached record highs in Libby.

In 2009, the effects of toxic asbestos dust caused Lincoln and Flathead Counties to be labeled an emergency situation. Now, the government is making Medicare provisions for local residents to receive diagnosis and treatments for mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Although heightened exposure for longer periods of time may raise the likelihood of developing mesothelioma, experts consider one-time exposure enough to cause the cancer as well.

Once asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested they become lodged in internal tissues and began a mutative process of tumor development. Mesothelioma most often affects lung lining; although it is also know to cause tumor development in lining of other abdominal cavities.

Due to its characteristically long latency period, mesothelioma poses a diagnostic challenge; it often goes undetected for twenty to fifty years without demonstrating symptoms. In its final and most aggressive stage mesothelioma shows signs that are easily mistaken for bronchitis or pneumonia. In many cases patients have no idea they were ever exposed to asbestos and therefore have no reason to suspect they are developing mesothelioma. However, in the Libby cases, residents know their risks and can began to seek early diagnoses.

Montana’s Senator Baucus has added benefits to the list already available for Libby area residents, which will be available July 1 of this year. Administrated by Noridian Administration Services, informational sessions will be held to educate locals on new benefits available and qualification processes in place.

According to a June 14, 2011 article in Daily Inter Lake, additional available benefits will include:

  • Special home-care services
  • Special medical equipment
  • Help with travel to get care
  • Special counseling such as help to quit smoking
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Prescription drugs not covered by Medicare drug plans if the participant is in a Medicare drug plan

Recent studies have shown a 10% increase in mesothelioma development in Libby residents over the national average. Of course, as latency periods grow, so will the number of cases. With such a concentrated presence of asbestos dust and fibers, early diagnostic tools, treatment regimes and medical facilities are a must for Libby, Montana residents.