Heather has experienced cancer first hand; eight years ago she was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a rare cancer that's primary risk factor is exposure to asbestos. Her exposure was caused by wearing her dad's work jacket that was covered in asbestos fibers. Occupational asbestos exposure is the most common risk factor of mesothelioma, but like Heather's case, it's also possible to be affected by secondhand exposure.
When diagnosed, Heather was given just 15 months to live. She's beaten the odds and is currently an eight-year mesothelioma cancer survivor. Heather now shares her story and works to raise awareness for mesothelioma causes.
A few facts about mesothelioma:
- Every year approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma.
- Asbestos insulation workers have the highest incidence rate of asbestos-related disease, however many other job occupations are likely exposed to asbestos.
- Those who smoke and are exposed to asbestos have a much higher chance of developing mesothelioma.
- Asbestos fibers are invisible to the naked eye and easily inhaled without the exposed person realizing it.
- Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose because the early symptoms can be subtle. In most cases, symptoms won't appear until up to 30 to 40 years after the asbestos exposure has occurred.
Because avoiding asbestos is key to reducing the risk of health-related issues, here are a few tips on how to minimize your exposure to asbestos and what to do if you do come in contact with the fiber:
- It's important to find out whether you work with asbestos. If you do it's extremely crucial to follow all workplace safety regulations. To reduce the risk of carrying the fibers home with you, it's best to shower and change out of your work clothes before going home.
- If you live in a home with asbestos, it's can be safer to leave the asbestos intact rather than removing it and breaking it up. There are experts trained in asbestos that can determine whether the asbestos is a risk to your health.
- Before beginning any construction project in your home or elsewhere, call and asbestos sampling agency to make sure your renovations won't release any fibers into the air.
Common asbestos locations include:
- Attic and wall insulation
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Roofing and siding shingles
- Textured paint used on walls and ceilings
- Oil and coal furnaces
- Heat-resistant fabrics
- Automobile clutches and brakes
For more information on asbestos and finding asbestos trained professionals please visit the EPA.