By: Dr. Thomas Incledon
Is asbestos exposure the only cause of mesothelioma?
The short answer is no, it’s not the only cause. Other risk factors for developing mesothelioma, which is an aggressive form of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of your internal organs (mesothelium), exist. They include:
- Zeolites, which are naturally-occurring minerals chemically related to asbestos. In the U.S., they are found in Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, and Utah.
- Radiation exposure in high amounts.
- Age seems to play a factor as most cases are diagnosed in those over 65.
- Men also develop mesothelioma more often than women; this may be job related.
While these correlations exist, it is very clear that exposure to asbestos is the main risk factor for mesothelioma. Asbestos is a group of minerals that present as bundles of fibers. Though asbestos occurs in nature in various parts of the world, when inhaled in a consistent manner of a period of decades, it can cause mesothelioma. This is more common with workplace exposure than with simple inhalation from the outdoors.
Many industries used asbestos as a primary material because it is resistant to heat and fire. Since the discovery that asbestos is related to this often-deadly form of cancer, its use has largely been discontinued. Unfortunately, those who have already been exposed to the material are still at risk for developing mesothelioma. Miners, factory workers, insulation manufacturers and installers, railroad and automotive workers, ship builders, gas mask manufacturers, plumbers, and construction workers typically worked with asbestos and are at a higher risk than the general population for developing mesothelioma. Their family members may also be at a higher risk because workers would unknowingly bring asbestos fibers home on their clothes.
Because mesothelioma takes decades – between 20 and 50 years – to develop, it is a lifetime concern for those with prolonged asbestos exposure. This fact can be extremely worrisome since traditional treatments for mesothelioma are usually ineffective. Mesothelioma can affect the tissue that surrounds the lungs (pleura) and is known as pleural mesothelioma. Other, less common types of mesothelioma develop in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), or around the heart and testicles.
If a patient’s mesothelioma has not spread to the lymph nodes, surgery can be considered as an option. Some doctors may also suggest surgery to relieve symptoms associated with mesothelioma as a palliative measure. As with any surgery, patients and their families should understand potential risks and side effects associated with the procedure.
Radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy are also recognized treatment options for mesothelioma depending on type and stage. At Causenta, we strive to understand a patient’s full health before recommending a treatment plan. “We always include diet and exercise with medical treatments to help our patients not only fight disease, but also to feel their best,” says Dr. Tom Incledon, founder & CEO of Causenta. “This is especially important with cases associated with mesothelioma to give patients hope and purpose.”
For more information on mesothelioma risk factors, treatments, and holistic cancer care with Causenta, schedule your complimentary 30-minute consultation today.