Unfortunately, asbestos was commonplace in the 20th century. Manufacturers found its properties useful despite its hazards. With asbestos nearly everywhere, the risk of exposure was high.
And yet, many Californians exposed in these past decades did not obtain a diagnosis until years later. The reason for this is due to the long latency period of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
What exactly is the latency period?
The latency period of mesothelioma is the time between someone’s exposure to asbestos and the actual diagnosis. Many diseases and viruses have a latency period, though these periods often range between a few days to a few weeks.
Mesothelioma’s latency period, as we have discussed in previous blog posts, is much longer. There is no defined duration, but the average latency period is 30 to 50 years or more, meaning individuals may not notice symptoms until decades after asbestos exposure.
Why does it take so long to develop?
According to the American Cancer Society, asbestos fibers can get lodged in the lining of your lungs or chest when they are inhaled. These stuck fibers then scar and inflame the tissue over time, which can eventually cause asbestosis to develop, but more significantly the fibers interfere with cell division leading to cancer such as mesothelioma.
However, it takes a long time for the cell interference to lead to anuploidy – and in turn, the tumors – to develop. Therefore, it takes a considerable amount of time for individuals to feel or even recognize symptoms as well.
What should you know?
It is important to understand how the latency period works. Doing so can help individuals be on the lookout proactively for symptoms if they suspect asbestos exposure at any point in their lives.
However, it is also critical to remember:
- It is different for everyone: And the length of the latency period can change depending on several factors. For example, although no amount of asbestos exposure is safe, the amount and duration of exposure can affect the latency period.
- It can impact treatment: The latency period can also affect one’s treatment options. Symptoms appear long after exposure, which often allows the disease to develop into later stages.
Being aware of the risks tied to asbestos exposure – and developing mesothelioma – can help individuals get the care they need.