Mesothelioma Awareness

Rebecca Dunphy, Contributing writer

On Sept. 26, organizations throughout the country will band together to raise awareness for the disease that costs 2,500 people their lives annually: mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal cancer that develops from exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral found in older buildings and homes.

When disturbed, asbestos fibers are released into the air and have the potential to be inhaled or swallowed. They can become lodged in the linings of the lungs, heart, or abdomen, which allows for scar tissue to form and increases the risk for disease.

This disease is especially dangerous, because symptoms are not always visible for 20 to 40 years after exposure, leading to a shortened life span of 12 to 21 months after diagnosis. Between 1999 and 2010 there was an estimated 31,000 mesothelioma related deaths.

Because an understanding of how to handle asbestos is the most important tool in preventing the disease, the goal of Mesothelioma Awareness Day is to educate the public about the potential dangers of asbestos, how to safely handle it and address any misconceptions.

“The end goal of Mesothelioma Awareness Day is hoping that one day we won’t need to have a Mesothelioma Awareness Day,” said Emily Walsh, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance outreach director.

“We strive every day to educate the public and to prevent future cases of mesothelioma.”

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance is an organization that provides educational resources, connects patients to top doctors and acts as a support system for those affected by the cancer.

The organization also has blogs, where it reports the most up-to-date treatment trials, breakthroughs and professional perspectives, which coincides with their goal to educate the public. This information can be found on their website:

This year, to celebrate the awareness day, the Cancer Alliance will be joining other organizations in a live chat for people to ask questions and discuss their opinions on asbestos and mesothelioma.

“We try to get in touch with as many local organizations as possible to talk about the day and see if they would like to join in via social media,” said Walsh. “We encourage everyone to join in and express their opinions and stories. Many survivors and organizations will be answering questions as well.”

People can join in the discussion by following the organization’s Twitter account @CancerAlliance, tuning in on Sept. 26 at 12 p.m. ET, and using the hashtag #EndMeso.

Efforts to raise awareness do not have to end after awareness day, however. Mesothelioma cases are expected to spike by the year 2020.

This is especially concerning for those living in Pennsylvania as the state ranked 3rd in the nation for the highest number of mesothelioma deaths. There are preventative measures those concerned can take.

“I think the first and most important step is to educate yourself on products where asbestos can be found, in order to prevent mishandling potential asbestos,” Walsh said.

She also encourages students who are renting houses off-campus to have a conversation with their landlords about asbestos and where it is in the home.