Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the external lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). The disease has been linked to exposure with asbestos dust. Cancer of this kind is uncommon and rarely is a result of anything other than asbestos exposure. It is also very difficult to diagnose. Tumors of the mesothelieum can be either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Most mesothelial tumors are malignant. However this disease is not very responsive to therapy.
Between a person’s first exposure to asbestos and the onset of this disease can be anywhere from 15- 60 years. By the time symptoms first appear and the cancer is diagnosed, the disease is often in its advanced stage. The average survival time is one to two years. If found early enough almost half of the patients reach the two year mark and approximately twenty percent survive five years.
Symptoms of malignant mesothelioma include shortness of breath, abdominal pain, a persistent cough, fever, sweating, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, muscle weakness, pain in the lower back or side of the chest and sensory loss. Many people mistake the symptoms of this disease for other common everyday ailments and do not seek treatment.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published statistics regarding work related mesothelioma deaths in the UK, spanning the years 1981- 2000. The study was published in 2003. The statistics showed that the highest rates of mesothelioma deaths in men were in West Dumbartonshire, Barrow-in-Furness, Plymouth, Portsmouth and South Tyneside, which were areas that were involved in ship building, thus the high incidence of asbestos.
Other areas, which were considered high risk, were areas that were situated close to, or contained railway engineering sites. These areas included Crewe, Eastleigh and Nantwich. Also high risk was Barking, Dagenham and Newham, which housed factories that made asbestos products.
The mortality rate for mesothelioma related deaths showed higher in men than in women. The average for women was approximately fifteen percent of the annual deaths due to this disease. The results for women were considered less reliable but showed the following: the areas with the greatest incidence of death for women included Barking and Dagenham (because of asbestos factories), Sunderland (manufacturing and shipbuilding) and Blackburn with Darwen (gas masks were manufactured in this region during the war).
* The statistics for this study are available on the HSE website which can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/area8100.pdf.
Anika Logan is a freelance writer and librarian who writes on a variety of topics including fashion and beauty, food and dining, entertainment, weddings, writing, home improvements and alternative medicine.