The state of Virginia has become the 11th state to pass legislation permanently proclaiming Sept. 26 as mesothelioma awareness day. The day recognizes the many victims of mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell recently signed the proclamation at a ceremony attended by Robena Reid, an advocate for mesothelioma victims who lost her mother to the disease, state delegate Mark Sickles who introduced the proclamation and supporters of the American Cancer Society and Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation.
Adopted unanimously by the Virginia House and Senate, Mesothelioma Awareness Day is designed to improve public understanding of the once rare form of cancer and the dangers of chronic asbestos exposure. When microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled, they may lodge in the lung, producing inflammation and eventually disease. Mesothelioma produces tumors in the lining of the chest cavity and abdominal cavity.
“We are grateful to the Virginia Legislature for bringing much-needed attention to this often neglected cancer, and we hope this will prompt Virginians, as well as others, to learn more about this dangerous disease,” said Kathy Wiedemer, executive director of the Meso Foundation, a non-profit group that provides information and advocacy on behalf of mesothelioma victims and families.
Approximately, 2,500 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States. Most sufferers are older workers, retired workers and veterans who were exposed to asbestos fibers in a workplace or during military service.
Asbestos building materials such as tile, insulation and flooring remain in many older houses and buildings. Ripping out the materials during remodeling or renovation projects can release asbestos fibers into the air, allowing them to be inhaled.
Frequently, the symptoms of mesothelioma are diagnosed only after the cancer has reached an advanced stage. Treatments for mesothelioma include radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, but the disease is often difficult to control.