Columbus, OH—An Ohio man who was a long time worker with General Electric has died from the rare cancer mesothelioma. Marvin R. Allen, 74, worked at General Electric Superabrasives for 27 years. He retired in 1995. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that is associated with exposure to asbestos. Once widely used for a variety of industrial and construction purposes, asbestos has been recognized as a carcinogen and phased out of use. Although asbestos has some remarkable properties—durability, flexibility, strength, and extreme resistance to high heat and flame—it is composed of microscopic fibers that can become airborne when the material is damaged in any way. These fibers are then inhaled or ingested. They burrow deep into the body’s soft tissues, particularly a membrane lining the lungs and chest cavity called the mesothelium. Once there, they can lead to the cancer known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma may remain latent within the body for up to 50 years following exposure to asbestos.
Its symptoms, additionally, are non-specific and closely resemble the symptoms of other, more common respiratory conditions such as emphysema, bronchitis, or even the common cold. These symptoms, which include coughing, wheezing, chest pain and fatigue, may even be mistaken for the signs of aging. Because of this, many patients do not consult their doctor at the onset of symptoms. By the time the mesothelioma is diagnosed, it has usually reached Stage III or Stage IV. At this point, curative surgery is not generally an option. Some patients may be responsive to other methods of treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation, but others feel that the side effects which accompany those treatments are not worth the benefits they provide, and so opt to pursue only pain management. On average, mesothelioma patients live only four to 18 months after diagnosis. Fewer than 10 percent live past the two-year mark. There are numerous clinical trials and studies being conducted in pursuit of a cure for mesothelioma, but currently it is considered incurable. Approximately 3,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.