Asbestos Cancer – Colorectal Cancer

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Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in just about any country in the world. Many people once believed that this naturally occurring mineral or compound was created by man for mass use. While it was widely used as a building material (and other for uses) for decades, asbestos was always (and still is) a dangerous substance. This hazardous substance is currently banned in countries such as Australia, Argentina, Chile, Croatia, and Saudi Arabia. Several countries, such as Russia and Canada do still mine asbestos, and in the United States, the substance is strictly regulated, but it is not totally banned.

Between 1940 and 1979, asbestos was used almost exclusively for its resistance to fire or heat in materials people came in contact with every day. Unfortunately, asbestos can still be found in roofing, siding, walls, ceilings, floors, pipes, boilers, gaskets, cloth and blankets, protective clothing, cement, firebrick, gunnite, and hot-tops (used in the steel pouring process).

There are two types of asbestos: amphibole asbestos and chrysotile asbestos. Chrysotile is used for industrial purposes and it is from the serpentine family. Amphibole asbestos varieties, such as amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite are straight and needle-like, unlike the curly serpentine variety. Chrysotile is mined on a large scale in asbestos mining countries, but the practice is constantly under scrutiny and advocacy groups for the outlawing of asbestos are working around the clock to outlaw the practice around the world.

Information About Mesothelioma

Asbestos is the number one cause of fatal asbestos cancer such as malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the membranes that line the chest (pleural mesothelioma) and abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma). Exposure to asbestos may also result in lung cancer and a number of gastrointestinal cancers, including colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is cancer that begins in the colon or the rectum. Together these cancers are referred to as colorectal cancer. This type of cancer occurs when some of the cells that line the colon or the rectum become abnormal and grow out of control. The abnormal growing cells form a tumor. The tumor that is formed is the cancer.

While the relationship between asbestos and colorectal cancer is still being studied, research suggests that continuous exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of colorectal cancer. It must be noted that individuals with the highest risk of developing colorectal cancer as a result of asbestos exposure include individuals in the fields of insulation, mining, milling, roofing, textiles and those involved in the manufacturing of asbestos-containing products.

The period between the time of exposure to asbestos and the onset of cancer symptoms is estimated at 20 to 50 years, which is why most cases are diagnosed later in life. It is estimated that 130,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed annually. Out of the hundreds of people that are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, the vast majority are men.

CT Scan Diagnostic methods and procedures for diagnosing colorectal cancer include stool tests, blood tests, colonoscopy, CT Scan and other imaging tests, genetic testing, flexible sigmoidoscopy, barium enema screening, and proctoscopy.

In the early stages of colorectal cancer, there are usually no symptoms. As the disease progresses, several tell tale signs may be present. These include: rectal bleeding, abdominal discomfort and bloating, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, dark patches of blood in the stool, long thin “pencil stools,” and drastic changes in bowel movements such as diarrhea, persistent constipation, and a feeling of not being able to empty the bowel completely.

Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on a number of factors including the general overall health of the patient, the stage of the disease, size and location of the tumor, whether the cancer can be completely removed by surgery, whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, and whether the cancer has recurred or has recently been diagnosed. Unlike many other forms of asbestos cancer, such as mesothelioma, localized gastrointestinal cancers, such as colorectal cancer, can be successfully treated, and in most cases cured completely. The survival rate for this type of cancer is considered very high.

Treatment options for colorectal cancer, and other asbestos related cancers (such as mesothelioma), may include traditional treatments and new treatments. New treatments include gene therapy, photodynamic therapy (PDT), biologic therapies, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and the development of new chemotherapy agents. Recently, the FDA approved two new drugs, Erbitux and Avastin, which fall under the category of biologic therapy. Both Erbitux and Avastin can be used to treat advanced colorectal cancer that has metastasized (spread) to other areas of the body.

Traditional colorectal cancer treatments include: surgery, radiation therapy or radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery is considered the most effective treatment for local colorectal tumors. Small tumors can be removed through a colonoscope. Additionally, removing a large portion of the colon and surrounding lymph nodes is often the best treatment.

External Radiation Therapy Radiation therapy is also called radiotherapy. It involves the use of high-energy rays to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells, but it only affects the cancer cells in the treated area only. There are two types of radiotherapy including external radiation and internal radiation therapy. External radiation is generated through a machine and internal radiation therapy is delivered directly to the source of the cancer by placing radioactive materials into the body through small tubes.

Unlike radiation therapy, in which cancer cells are destroyed in the treated area only, chemotherapy can kill cancer cells throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill the cancer cells in the body by injection.

In many cases a trimodality or multimodality approach is employed, which means several treatments are combined for the best outcomes. This approach may involve the use of traditional methods combined with either clinical trials or a number of new methods such as gene therapy, photodynamic therapy (PDT), immunotherapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and the development of new chemotherapy agents, as mentioned above, as well as angiogenesis therapies, antineoplaston therapy, interferon and interleukin therapy, and radiofrequency ablation.