Mesothelioma and Seniors
While many North Americans know asbestos is a dangerous substance, few are aware of the disproportionate impact of asbestos-related cancers on senior citizens. Several factors contribute to the increased risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases among seniors, including occupational settings. Exposure to asbestos at the workplace was highest between 1930 and 1960, placing today’s seniors who worked in shipyards, manufacturing and construction at an increased risk for developing an asbestos-related condition.
Another factor that influences the higher incidence rate of asbestos-related diseases among seniors is the long latency period associated with symptoms. After a person is exposed to asbestos, symptoms of mesothelioma can take as long as 50 years to arise. Because of this, the cancer may unknowingly develop for an extended period of time, often resulting in a late diagnosis. The average age of a mesothelioma patient is about 65-years-old.
A third factor that places seniors at a higher risk for developing an asbestos-related disease is their participation in World War II. The era of this war was a time when asbestos was widely used to support the military. Primarily between the 1930s and the 1970s, many military divisions used asbestos-containing products for buildings and various types of transportation. Asbestos not only provided a great way to insulate materials but a way to fireproof them as well.
Even though all divisions of the military commonly used asbestos, the Navy found more uses for this heat-resistant mineral than any other division. From the 1930s through the 1980s, more than 300 products imbedded with asbestos were used by the Navy alone. Because of this widespread use, veterans make up a sizable percentage of those coping with asbestos-related disease.
Mesothelioma Treatment and Caregiving
Treatment for mesothelioma will vary from patient to patient. Although no cure exists, patients can elect to undergo therapy that may improve their overall quality of life and increase mesothelioma life expectancy. Some of the more common methods of treatment include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Attaining an early diagnosis can expand treatment options and may result in more effective treatment. Some patients may qualify for experimental treatments through mesothelioma clinical trials as well.
Whether or not a patient elects to undergo treatment such as surgery or chemotherapy, those who may aid in caregiving should find ways reduce stress. Many choose to meditate, pray, read, exercise, or take a walk. Stress and anxiety are ever-present factors when dealing with a terminal illness and are important issues to solve after a friend or family member has received a diagnosis.