Birmingham, England – The latest reports from the British Health and Safety Executive have shown that rates of mesothelioma, the rare cancer which is linked to asbestos exposure, have continued to rise in the West Midlands region of the country.
Provisional figures revealed that the death rate of men in the region, per million, increased from 44.7 in 2002-2004, to 46.7 between 2005-2007. Female deaths from mesothelioma in the West Midlands region also rose, from 6.64 in the previous period, to 7.87 in the current period. Mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of cancer, which results in almost every case from exposure to asbestos. Once used widely in construction and industrial capacities, asbestos is a material with great tensile strength and fire resistance, but which is also highly toxic when breathed in. It has microscopic fibers which can embed themselves inside the body’s organs, particularly the lungs and the outer lining of the lungs called the mesothelium. Once there, these carcinogenic fibers may develop into mesothelioma, although it may take up to 50 years before the cancer becomes symptomatic. This leads to late, often end-stage, diagnoses.
A variety of occupational groups are at an increased risk for mesothelioma, including builders and construction workers; factory, mill and plant workers; shipbuilders and sailors; and even teachers. There have also been several documented cases of mesothelioma resulting from secondhand exposure to asbestos. Anyone who knows or suspects that they have been exposed to this hazardous toxin and has experienced abnormal symptoms should consult with their doctor. As with most cancers, it is more treatable when it is diagnosed early. Chemotherapy, radiation, and possibly even surgery can remove the cancer as well as make the patient more comfortable. Some of the symptoms of mesothelioma include wheezing, chest or back pain, fatigue or breathing difficulties, and a persistent or bloody cough.