Sept. 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day
Mesothelioma Awareness Day takes place Sept. 26 every year, according to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation website.
The first Meso Awareness Day was started by a group of Meso Foundation volunteers in 2004, and every subsequent year since has been larger and more widespread.
Wider public awareness and research funding is needed to help find a cure or better treatments for this aggressive form of cancer. Meso Foundation volunteers have also recommended having all states and cities officially recognize Sept. 26 as Meso Awareness Day.
Maine has a rate of 27.5 cases per million every year in a state with a population of 1.3 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national average is 13.8 cases per million.
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation Director of Outreach Maja Belamaric said it is a rare illness and that is one reason it is not getting the attention it deserves. However, she added that the disease is both awful and preventable.
She said the first action that needs to be taken is to get rid of the asbestos in society.
"Even if you got rid of all of it tomorrow, 50 years from now people would still be getting sick," she said.
The latency period from exposure to onset of symptoms can be up to 50 years.
"Let's find effective treatments for this disease so we can help people," Belamaric said.
For decades the need for research to develop effective treatments has been mostly ignored, the website states. Today, mesothelioma has only one approved treatment that extends average survival by three months.
While basic understanding of the cell biology is progressing, there have been few breakthroughs in the early detection or treatment of this deadly cancer. As a result, the median survival rate for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma is only about 12 months.
Funding for research is key to the development of new treatments and learning how to target the appropriate patient care.
The foundation states on its website that the country can expect to see many mesothelioma diagnoses in the coming years due to exposure by national crises such as Sept. 11, 2001, where the Twin Towers had large amounts of asbestos fireproofing, so all of the first responders risked exposure. Hurricane Katrina also spread large amounts of asbestos, exposing both victims and those helping with clean up.
Contaminated vermiculite can still be found in 35 million attics in the United States today.
Asbestos has not been banned in the United States. Both the House and Senate tried to pass legislation banning asbestos as recently as 2007, but did not succeed.
There is an established history of asbestos exposure in military service, and elevated risk of mesothelioma in the military population. Approximately one-third of mesothelioma cases have been shown to involve exposures to Navy personnel or civilian workers in the nation’s shipyards.
For more information, visit curemeso.org.