Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that can be found in the lining that protects many organs in the body. The protective lining around the organs is known as the mesothelium (or mesothelial tissue) which is how this cancer got its name. Mesothelioma in the lung lining or pleural cavity, known as pleural mesothelioma, is the most common type of mesothelioma. People can also get peritoneal (in the abdomen), pericardial (in the lining of the heart), or testicular mesothelioma.
The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. When a person is exposed to asbestos fibers that are inhaled or ingested, those fibers can become lodged in the tissue surrounding organs, such as the lungs, causing damage over time that can develop into cancerous tumors. The period of time that it takes for mesothelioma cancer to develop, known as a latency period, is very long; often taking as much as 10 to 60 years after exposure.
Because of the long latency period, many mesothelioma victims are often men and women over 50 years of age who worked with asbestos decades earlier.
Many California workers who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace 10 to 60 years ago were unaware of the dangers of working around the material. These men and women often unknowingly brought the dust home from work on their skin, clothing and hair, or purchased products such as insulation and car brakes that put themselves and their children at risk of secondary exposure in their homes. The companies who employed these workers and manufactured asbestos containing products knew that the material was a health hazard as early as 1918 but chose to put the lives of their employees and their families in danger in favor of large profits.
Mesothelioma is most effectively treated when detected in its earliest stages. If you believe that you may have been exposed to asbestos in the past you should advise your doctor and schedule regular screenings for asbestos-related illnesses.
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