Mesothelioma is a devastating illness for several reasons. One is how long it can take for people to learn that they have this type of cancer after being exposed to a toxic level of asbestos.
A look at latency periods
The latency period is the length of time between exposure to a harmful source and the development of symptoms. For mesothelioma, this period can range from 20 to 50 years.
In other words, people generally do not know for decades that they suffered exposure to toxic amounts of asbestos. Even if they do know that they lived or worked near asbestos, they may not know if and to what extent the exposure affected them.
Hurry up and wait?
During these years, it can be unnerving to wonder if you have been exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos. It can feel like all you can do is hurry up and wait.
However, while you may not be able to change the circumstances of your exposure or prevent asbestos fibers from entering your lungs, you can take steps to protect yourself and improve your prognosis.
Some ways you can do this include:
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding additional toxic exposure
- Seeing your doctor regularly (and informing them of your exposure risks)
- Undergoing early screenings
These measures can help you reduce your risk of developing cancer and make it easier to detect any issues as early as possible. Early detection is crucial, as it can extend a person’s life expectancy and improve treatment options and efficacy.
After a diagnosis
Years or even decades after exposure, when a person receives a mesothelioma diagnosis, it is too late to do anything to protect themselves. At this point, coping with the illness and its effects is the priority. Seeking legal, financial and medical support can be crucial in navigating this upsetting experience.