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The Facts about Rare Disease in Honor of Rare Disease Day


The hard truth is that most people are affected by cancer at some point in their lives. Whether a person is diagnosed him or herself, or has a loved one who receives a diagnosis, cancer is an ever-present threat. For the average American female, the chances of being diagnosed with cancer is 37.65% and for the average American male, that number goes up to nearly 40%. As for whether the diagnosed cancer will be rare, chances are about 1 in 5.

There are between 6,000 and 8,000 known rare diseases with varying origins, symptoms and life expectancies. Many of said diseases are genetic and unavoidable, but others occur as a result of environmental causes. In honor of Rare Disease Day on February 28, now is the time to stay alert of any underlying health issues that may present themselves and ensure your health is a top priority.

Alpha thalassemia, for example, is a genetic disorder that affects the hemoglobin of the blood, lowering the amount present in the body. The disorder, though more common in Asia, Europe and Africa, is considered rare in the United States. There are two different types of health issues associated with alpha thalassemia: hemoglobin Bart hydrops fetalis syndrome, also known as Hb Bart syndrome or alpha thalassemia major, and HbH disease. Symptoms of alpha thalassemia major, the more advanced form of the disorder, include problems with the heart, anemia and an abnormally large liver and spleen.

Mesothelioma, another rare disease, is most common among the populations of United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Australasia, but still sees nearly 3,000 new diagnoses per year in the United States. A cancer resulting solely from asbestos exposure, mesothelioma has an unusually poor life expectancy following diagnosis. This rare disease is known for its latent symptoms, and often impacts those 65 years and older as a result.

Rare diseases like alpha thalassemia and mesothelioma are just two of the thousands of rare diseases known to researchers today. With Rare Disease Day in mind, it’s crucial to be aware of rare diseases and their symptoms, as it could be lifesaving in the future.

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