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Friday, 18 September 2015

Raising Awareness for Preventable Diseases -- Mesothelioma

Recently a lovely lady called Heather Von St. James who is a 10 year mesothelioma cancer survivor contacted me. Her aim is to try and spread as much awareness as she can for this rare but in most cases preventable disease. I was honoured that she wished me to help, which is why I have put together this post detailing some information on the disease.

I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like or how I would react to being told ‘you have cancer’.
The idea of something like that is a deeply terrifying thought to most.
The sad thing about our society currently is that all most everyone has experienced some sort of deep despair due to cancer, whether that be their own or linked to a loved one.

Cancer - a malignant growth or tumour due to an uncontrolled division and multiplication of cells within the body.

What is mesothelioma?
Pronounced me·so·the·li·o·ma

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that commonly develops in the tissues covering the lungs or abdomen. It is a cancer of the mesothelial cells hence its name.
Mesothelial cells are pavement like cells that line the body's serous cavities and internal organs, they form a lining called the mesothelium.

Commonly 75% of mesotheliomas occur in the chest (pleural mesothelioma) with the remaining 25% occurring in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma).

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, however it seems recently more and more cases are being presented. More than 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK each year, with over 3,000 in America.
Evidence from many scientific studies appear to show that most cases of pleural mesothelioma are directly caused from exposure to asbestos. This risk is greater if the person in question was exposed to large amounts of it from an early age or for prolonged periods of time. The same seems to be true for many of those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma.

What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a heat and fire resistant insulting material that was used widely in building and manufacturing industries up until the mid 1970’s.
Asbestos can be found in three main forms brown, blue and white. Brown and blue asbestos are strongly linked with the development of mesothelioma, while more recent studies are now uncovering the dangers of white asbestos.
Asbestos in brown and blue forms have been banned in the UK since the late 1980’s, while white has only been banned since 1999.

A causal link between asbestos and lung disease has been known since the 18th century, with the link between asbestos and mesothelioma only realised in the 1960's. Unfortunately the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK and America is predicted to rise sharply for the next few years peaking in 2016 because of the heavy use of asbestos in industry from the end of the Second World War up until the mid 1970s.

Despite the infinite amount of information out there stating the dangers of asbestos and its link to mesothelioma, it is not completely banned in all its forms in many countries. 

Who is most at risk to developing Mesothelioma?
·         Miners
·         Factory workers
·         Insulation manufacturers and installers
·         Railroad and automotive workers
·         Ship builders
·         Gas mask manufacturers
·         Plumbers
·         Construction workers
·         Family members of people exposed to asbestos at work can also be exposed because the workers can carry home asbestos fibres on their clothes.

This is not to say you are definitely at risk if you work in these areas now, the higher risk is for those who worked in these sectors at times of when asbestos was being used.


Pleural mesothelioma 
·         Chest pain
·         Shortness of breath
·         Fatigue
·         Sweating and high temperatures
·         A persistent cough
·         Losing weight when not dieting
·         Loss of appetite
·         Difficulty swallowing
·         A hoarse or husky voice

Peritoneal mesothelioma 
·         Pain in the abdomen
·         Swelling in the abdomen
·         Feeling or being sick
·         Poor appetite
·         Losing weight when not dieting
·         Diarrhoea or constipation

This is not a definitive list of symptoms and just because you have some of these does not mean you should jump to the conclusion of cancer. Other factors such as occupation, age and exposure risk should be taken into account also.

I am worried I may be at risk what do I do?
Speak to your doctor or health practitioner they will be better able to help you and accurately judge whether you may or may not be at risk of developing mesothelioma.

I want to help what can do?
·         Share articles like this and Heathers story to spread awareness and reach a wider audience, stopping this cancer being kept in the dark.
·         Donate to cancer research charities
·         Sign petitions stating we want firm bans on asbestos and safer removal plans for when it is found in buildings.
·         Take part in the twitter chat on the 25th of September.

On September the 25 there will the first annual twitter chat to help spread awareness

I truly wish Heather all the best and hope she can carry on her brilliant work. It takes a very strong  person to decide that this is not something they will let rule them but flip it around and be so proactive in their work.

Thank you for reading,


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