Dustin's Possible Cancer Cause
- Dustin Diamond, 44, is battling stage four lung cancer and has wondered if mold and asbestos from “cheap hotels” are to blame; the Saved by the Bell actor stays in hotels when he’s on the road for stand-up comedy work.
- Diamond is a non-smoker, and there’s a history of cancer in his family: his mom passed from breast cancer.
- Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral, and is a known carcinogen.
- After getting diagnosed with cancer, a small percentage of people may experience clinical depression; it’s important to care for your mental health when fighting cancer.
Asbestos & Cancer
When Diamond pointed to environmental conditions, such as asbestos and mold in hotel rooms, as possible causes for his lung cancer, it may have people asking the question: Can asbestos and mold actually cause cancer? The short answer is “yes.” Experts spoke with SurvivorNet about the link between asbestos and mesothelioma; this is a different type of cancer than the kind that Diamond has.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring silicate mineral, is a known carcinogen, or, a cancer-causing agent. Dr. Joseph Friedberg, the Head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a previous interview with SurvivorNet how it can cause mesothelioma, which is not the type of cancer that Diamond has. “Mesothelioma is a rare cancer. It’s maybe 1% or 2% as common as lung cancer or breast cancer. So maybe a few thousand cases a year in the United States. It’s the cancer which is – the overwhelming majority of the time – caused by asbestos. The most common presenting symptom for mesothelioma is shortness of breath, and the reason that happens is this. Every day, a couple of cups of fluid comes out of the lungs. This is normal.”
Dr. Friedberg said what to look for when it comes to this type of cancer: “Everyday, a couple of cups of fluid comes out of the lungs, and then gets absorbed by the lining of the chest cavity, primarily along the diaphragm, but really throughout. Anything that throws that balance out of whack can cause that fluid to accumulate. Mesothelioma, or any cancer effect in the pleura, you basically have plugged up the holes where the fluid gets absorbed, and at that point, it’s like putting up a dam. In either case, your stream overflows, you end up with a lake.”
Dr. Friedberg explained just what causes this shortness of breath. He said, “When that fluid accumulates, the lungs get squashed, people get short of breath. Most often, they’ll get diagnosed as having pneumonia or something else because someone listens to them, they have decreased breath sounds, they get treated. So because it’s such a rare cancer, it is often misdiagnosed for several months. The normal survival is typically about one to maybe two years. So it’s one of the most deadly cancers.”
Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis like Diamond’s can be particularly painful and hard to cope with; some people experience grief and depression following their cancer diagnosis. It’s important to tend to your mental health during this time, in the same way you’re tending to your physical health and treating your cancer.
Dr. Scott Irwin, the Director of Supportive Care Services at Cedars-Sinai, said in an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, “Depression is a really interesting topic, because a lot of people assume that, oh, they have cancer. They must be depressed. That’s actually not true. 85% of patients do not get what would be considered a clinical depression. 15% do. For prescribing medications for depression in the context of cancer, I often try to choose medications with the lowest side effect profile,” he said.
Dr. Irwin explained how can treatments impact the type of treatment that will be available to treat a person’s depression. ” If patients are getting hormonal therapy, there’s particular antidepressants that we can’t use, because they may lower the effectiveness of that hormonal therapy. And so we choose antidepressants that don’t impact the cancer care. Depression and stress make it harder to treat cancer, make it harder to tolerate the treatments.”