One of the most important things to focus on this November during Lung Cancer Awareness Month is educating yourself about this disease and some of the related illnesses, like mesothelioma, which is often confused with lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths for men and women. Over 150,000 people died from lung cancer in 2017, with another 220,000 new patients being diagnosed that same year. Smoking, radon, and asbestos inhaled over time all dramatically increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
While it is not lung cancer, mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers which become lodged in the pleural lining (the membrane surrounding the lungs and other vital organs) and over time can damage cells causing tumor growth.
Over 3,300 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, with nearly 46,000 having died directly from mesothelioma between 1999-2015. This number has started to rise as the population ages and mesothelioma tumors begin to form after the characteristically long latency period.
Exposure to asbestos has become marginally less common since many of the products that used asbestos in the past are no longer permitted. However, since there exists no ban on the toxic substance, and with increasing imports to the United States in the last couple of years, new exposure will continue to occur.
For those who have been exposed in the past to asbestos through their occupation or proximity, it is vital to notify your doctor of your exposures and get screened for possible abnormalities.
Importance of Early Detection for Mesothelioma
Since mesothelioma can sometimes take more than 40 years to develop and show symptoms, it makes early detection even more important. Most of the time, a patient’s mesothelioma will not be detected until it has progressed into the third and fourth stages.
This is why if you have a history of exposure to asbestos, getting imaging tests done is extremely important. If abnormalities are found in X-rays or CT Scans, then doctors will take a biopsy of pleural tissue to determine if cancerous cells are present.
If the detection of mesothelioma happens at an early stage, then patients have many options for treatment including radical surgery in the form of a P/D or an EPP. There are also other treatments like radiation, chemotherapy, and new immunotherapy drugs which have started to show real promise in clinical trials.
Recently, there has been a new push to research mesothelioma treatments and early detection methods. As mesothelioma cases continue to rise in the United States, we have yet to witness the full toll that asbestos exposure will take on this country, and the rest of the world, once more people start exhibiting symptoms.
Most developing countries rely on cheap building materials for construction to speed up growth. This opens up huge markets for asbestos manufacturers from Russia and China (the two largest suppliers of raw asbestos) to operate in with impunity, even though the continued use of asbestos has been empirically proven to be deadly.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are a few important questions you should ask your doctor if you wish to fully understand your diagnosis. Here at the Mesothelioma Guide, our Patient Advocate, Jenna Campagna, RN, has compiled five of the most important questions for patients to ask their physicians after being diagnosed with mesothelioma:
- What cell type do I have?
- How advanced/What stage is my cancer?
- What is my outlook and life expectancy?
- What are my treatment options?
- What is the goal of treatment?
With Lung Cancer Awareness Month underway, you can continue showing your support for patients suffering from lung cancer, and other diseases like mesothelioma, by continuing to educate yourself about these conditions and spread awareness. The more people know about these illnesses, the more research will be done to help those who are affected.
For more information on lung cancer or mesothelioma please contact our Patient Advocacy Nurse, Jenna Campagna, RN. You may reach her by calling 888-385-2024 extension 102 or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lung Cancer. American Lung Association. Retrieved from: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/learn-about-lung-cancer/what-is-lung-cancer/what-causes-lung-cancer.html. Accessed: 11/1/18.
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