We spoke with our friends at the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center to get a better understanding and learn about preventative measures; we will discuss these illnesses and their causes as follows:
As the leaves begin to change color and the temperatures cool down, we reflect on lung cancer and respiratory illness in the month of November. Every year, lung cancer accounts for the most deaths of any cancer, and is the leading cause of cancer death in men. While lung cancer affects hundreds of thousands of people every year, many other respiratory diseases and illnesses cause health concerns and deaths annually. Conditions such as asthma, COPD and mesothelioma can be found prevalently throughout the United States. To get a better understanding and learn about preventative measures we will discuss these illnesses and their causes as follows:
While smoking is the most notorious cause of lung cancer, many different environmental and lifestyle factors can affect the development of cancer cells in the lungs. The incidence of lung cancer is decreasing in America, partly due to anti-smoking campaigns, but the disease is still prevalent enough to account for 27% of all cancer deaths. Secondhand smoke also remains a very serious health risk, so it is imperative to be aware of your surroundings and never expose children to tobacco smoke. After smoking, radon exposure is the second largest cause of lung cancer, as the EPA estimates that the naturally-occurring gas causes 20,000 new diagnoses annually. The CDC urges smoking cessation and radon detection in the home as two effective means of combating lung cancer incidence. Treatment of lung cancer is an extensive, multi-faceted operation, usually including a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation, as well as surgical removal of affected areas.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, known as COPD, as an umbrella term used to define several different respiratory illnesses. The most common of these illnesses are emphysema and chronic bronchitic. Similar to lung cancer, smoking is a leading cause of COPD. However, poor air quality and environmental pollutants can also be factors in a COPD diagnosis. People who work with chemicals, who are exposed to fumes such as diesel exhaust, and those who work in construction generally have a higher risk of being at risk for developing COPD-causing particulate matter. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, COPD is characterized by the loss of elasticity in lung components, which makes breathing become more difficult. The disease starts slowly and is progressive, becoming a major disability as it worsens. There is no cure known for COPD, but bronchodilators and steroid therapies have shown some promise in treatment. Most people with COPD diagnoses are middle-aged.
Mesothelioma is rare, hyper-aggressive cancer caused by the exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral, which was used extensively in building and construction practices, up until the late-20th Century. However, those who worked closely with the substance began coming down with serious illness, which would develop decades after their initial exposure. This disease, mesothelioma, is caused when asbestos is disrupted – which causes the material to splinter and break into particulate matter. This particulate matter is then inhaled, and it becomes lodged in the lining of the organs; the most common area being the lining around the lungs. During the cancer’s latency period, cells will begin to grow uncontrollably, causing irritation and potentially tumors. Once mesothelioma is diagnosed, the patients generally have a bleak outlook; average mesothelioma life expectancy is only 12-21 months. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but treatment options can help with quality of life and life expectancy. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgical removal are generally used in conjunction to treat the disease. However, immunotherapy has shown some promise of late – especially the drug Keytruda – in treating mesothelioma patients.
Often overlooked due to its prognosis and commonality, asthma still remains a serious respiratory illness. Asthma is defined as a chronic lung disease in which the body’s airways are inflamed and become narrow, making breathing difficult. The National Institute of Health estimates that asthma affects for than 25 million people nationally, 7 million of which are children. The condition’s onset occurs most commonly during childhood, but many adults are also diagnosed. It is noteworthy that asthma has several forms, including work-induced (from irritants such as chemicals) and allergy-induced (usually caused by seasonal histamines, like pollen and ragweed). Asthma can be very severe when untreated, especially when an individual suffers an asthma attack; these attacks can prove fatal if not treated immediately. Asthma is generally treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids like Prednisone in severe cases, and bronchodilators such as Advair or Symbicort.
How to Promote Healthy Lungs
Respiratory health awareness is imperative for a healthy life. The most effective way to reduce one’s chances of lung illness is to stop smoking immediately. Safety in the workplace, particularly within the construction and manufacturing industries, including the usage of proper equipment, can help to stop your risk of exposure of toxins. Regular exercise and healthy habits can ensure your respiratory health and keep you well for years to come.