September 26 is a very important day in the lives of many. It is the 10th annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day. That may not mean much to you, honestly, it didn't mean much to me until a brave and beautiful woman, Heather Von St. James, reached out to me to raise awareness for this rare, yet deadly disease.
Mesothelioma is a rare, but aggressive cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. What are asbestos? I'm glad you asked. Asbestos are naturally occurring fibrous minerals that were used for many years as an industrial insulation component. Even though asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen, a substance or agent that tends to produce a cancer, it is still produced and used in America and throughout the world. It can still be found in many homes, schools, public facilities and commercial or industrial buildings.
I don't know about you, but that last fact is a little scary.
|Photo Credit: ELSL Law, one representation of mesothelioma victims|
Even over 30 years after the peak of its use, asbestos still remains the number one cause of occupational cancer in the United States. It was greatly used throughout the 20th century in a wide variety of applications. Those who are electricians, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics and machinists are especially at risk. Additionally, there is a risk of second hand asbestos exposure if you live with and handle the clothes of one who is regularly exposed.
Navy Veterans from WWII through Vietnam were also probably exposed to high concentrations of asbestos through the engine rooms, boiler rooms and even sleeping quarters of their ships and in the shipyard. This exposure to asbestos often develops into Mesothelioma.
The sneaky aspect of this form of cancer is that mesothelioma has a long-latency period. This means it commonly sits dormant in the body for approximately 20-50 years after the initial exposure. As a result, Mesothelioma is most frequently diagnosed between the ages of 50-70, many years after the initial exposure to asbestos.
Over a long period of time, asbestos fibers slowly inflame the lung's internal tissue and disrupt organ function. Roughly 80% of mesothelioma cases occur within the lining of the lungs. However, there is also peritoneal mesothelioma which occurs in the abdominal lining and pericardial mesothelioma which occurs in the heart lining.
|Photo credit: Mesothelioma Guide|
This is a very serious disease that affects many thousands of people in the United States alone. This year approximately 10,000 Americans will die of asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. Over 200,000 will be living with asbestos.
However, there is hope! Awareness is the key. The best way to avoid mesothelioma is to avoid asbestos completely, since it is its cause. Nonetheless, consulting with a physician at the first sign of symptoms or if you believe you are at risk can make the difference. Early diagnosis provides a greater range of treatments. Most mesothelioma cases are not diagnosed until the advanced stage giving the patient only on average 10 months to live; however, early diagnosis can quite literally save your life.
Heather Von St. James is a voice for Mesothelioma Awareness. In 2005 at age 36, she was diagnosed with Mesothelioma right after giving birth to her only daughter, Lily. She was only given 15 months to live. However, after a life-saving surgery that included the removal of her left lung, she is not only alive, but thriving. After being one of the few to survive this fatal disease, she and her family have dedicated their lives to spreading awareness of Mesothelioma.
I am in awe of Heather's passion and eagerness to give a voice to the victims of asbestos exposure. I am very thankful to have this opportunity not only to learn about this grievous disease, but to spread awareness and hope for the future. There is no cure for Mesothelioma yet, but awareness is the key to advancements in treatment and hopefully a cure for future generations.
Learn more about Mesothelioma Awareness Day Campaign!
Learn more about Mesothelioma!
Learn more about Heather's Story!
Read more from Heather Von St. James!
In honor of #MesoAwarenessDay, I am giving my voice to victims.