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Asbestos 101

X-RAY OF THE CHEST

We’re sure you have heard of asbestos. It’s a highly heat-resistant fibrous mineral that is found in some fabrics, brake linings and fire-resistant and insulating materials.Due to being resistance to heat and its strength, asbestos was a common material in products such as floor tiles and ceiling materials. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) named asbestos as one of ‘the most important occupational carcinogens’. In 2010, WHO upgraded their global-estimate of asbestos related diseases to ‘107,000 annual deaths’.

Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive tumour and is typically related to exposure to mineral fibres such as asbestos.

Mesothelioma originates in the serosal membranes that line the thoracic and abdominal cavities. What does this mean? The thoracic cavity is basically your chest. It includes everything between your neck and your diaphragm. It has three components – the mediastinum and two pleural cavities. The mediastinum is where your heart, trachea and great vessels live. The pleural cavities are on either side of the mediastinum and contain the lungs and pleural linings. More than 90% of reported mesothelioma cases occur in the pleura.

The abdominal cavity contains some of your major organs, including, your stomach, colon, liver, pancreas and kidneys.

It can be difficult to identify mesothelioma because it mimics other diseases, but symptoms include:

  • Dyspnoea (shortness of breath)
  • Chest pains
  • Coughing
  • Weight-loss

It’s commonly known as an occupational hazard, predominantly in the male workforce. Most mesothelioma patients are those who have worked with raw asbestos, however workers in these professions may still be exposed to asbestos:

  • Auto mechanics
  • Electricians
  • Insulators
  • Painters
  • Plumbers
  • Plasterers
  • Industrial Plant Workers

A ban on the manufacturing and use of all types of asbestos (and materials containing it) has been in place since 2003 across Australia. Although it is still used in many countries, it is a prohibited import in Australia.

If you have concerns about asbestos in your workplace or your home, check out the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Society to find out what you can do.

You can watch a video about the ‘Patterns of Lung Cancer Care in Northern Sydney’ in our Presentation Portal.

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