Late last week, the Senate passed Resolution 125 to designate the first week of April as National Asbestos Awareness Week. Sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, and Sen. Steve Daines, R-MT, the resolution asks that people take time to learn about the dangers of asbestos and even calls on the Surgeon General to “warn and educate people about the public health issue of asbestos exposure, which may be hazardous to their health.”
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Susan Vento’s husband, longtime U.S. congressman Bruce Vento, died of mesothelioma nearly 15 years ago, but Susan’s fight against asbestos has never been more urgent than it is today.
When we think of asbestos, we don’t typically think of it as being a poison, and the phrase “asbestos poisoning” isn’t one that’s commonly used. However, according to the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus, the definition of a poison is any material that causes harm, no matter if it’s inhaled, ingested, absorbed, or injected into the body. Known to cause asbestosis and mesothelioma, science and history have proven asbestos to be extremely poisonous when inhaled into the lungs.
Both smoking and asbestos irritate the lungs. Smoking is a well-known trigger for lung cancer. Chronic exposure to smoke (smoking) causes as many as 90% of lung cancers.1
Lung Leavin’ Day began as a way to deal with stress and as a way to cope with mesothelioma. The idea of Lung Leavin’ Day came just after Heather’s second biopsy, which confirmed her mesothelioma diagnosis. At a time when we should have been celebrating the start of our family and getting to know our new baby daughter Lily, who was born 3 months earlier, we were in a hospital far from home fighting cancer. There was a lot to be stressed about.
Every year following Lung Leavin’ Day, I write a recap of the evening. This year I wanted to do something a little different. I know the event has a huge effect on people, and in the last couple of years people have shared their feelings about the night with me. I thought I would ask a few friends about their thoughts on the tradition and share them with you.
Doctors use information about each case of mesothelioma to help guide the treatment of each patient. Most commonly, doctors look at how far the mesothelioma has spread which is measured in the tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) stage and the type of tumor cell --epithelioid, biphasic, and sarcomatoid. However, even the same type of mesothelioma—epithelioid— can vary in its rate of growth or aggressiveness. Thus, other factors in mesothelioma must affect its aggressiveness.
Research is at the heart of the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston. By studying mesothelioma tumors, our team of physician-scientists has made incredible strides in the search for mutations that can lead to mesothelioma. Their findings support the current understanding that mesothelioma begins with exposure to an irritant—usually asbestos—that triggers a cascade of genetic changes resulting in the disease.