Mesothelioma Takes the Life of Veteran, Plumber

Barron, WI—Following a battle with the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, a World War II veteran and former plumber has died.

Prescott O. Solie was 85 at the time of his death in October 2009. Solie served in the United States Navy as a radar specialist in the Pacific theater, and later worked for Solie and Son, as well as for other firms, as a master plumber.

Both his occupation and his military service could have exposed Solie to asbestos, which is the typical cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos, a naturally occuring mineral material which was at one time used for insulation purposes, has useful properties—it is lightweight, strong, durable, and resistant to both flame and high temperatures—but it also has carcinogenic properties. When asbestos dust is released into the air, it can be inhaled, but cannot be exhaled or otherwise cleared out of the body. Microscopic and sharp fibers penetrate the mesothelium, a membrane which lines the body’s cavities and surrounds it organs. Once there, they can lead to malignant pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma.

Since asbestos was widely employed by the military, and in pipes and construction materials, veterans, plumbers, pipefitters, electricians and other construction workers are especially prone to developing diseases related to asbestos, such as mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma can take up to 50 years to fully develop and become symptomatic. It is an aggressive cancer which is most often diagnosed in late stages, and therefore surgery to remove the tumor is rarely a viable option. Patients can opt for other treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy. Others choose only to pursue pain management, because the side effects of treatments can be severe and debilitating.

The median survival time for malignant pleural mesothelioma is only six to 18 months, but many patients die within only a few months of learning that they have the disease.