Mesothelioma is a rare and complex form of cancer that is only diagnosed in 2,000 to 3,000 people each year. Unlike with other forms of cancer that are diagnosed in tens of thousands each year, the general public knows less about mesothelioma. This has led to many misconceptions about how people contract the disease and what the available treatment options are for those who are diagnosed with it.
In a life and death situation like fighting cancer, a person should be armed with all the facts in order to make the most informed medical decisions possible. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. The following is a list of accepted facts about mesothelioma that are actually false.
Mesothelioma Only Develops in the Lungs
According to the American Cancer Society, there are actually four types of mesothelioma, each named for the “mesothelium” where it develops. The mesothelium is a specialized layer of cells that lines most of the organs in the body. Pleura mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs, and is the most common form of mesothelioma, affecting three out of four mesothelioma patients.
The majority of the remaining cases of mesothelioma are peritoneal mesothelioma, which grows in the lining of the abdomen that protects the organs located there. The two remaining forms, Pericardial and Tunica Vaginalis, are rare by even mesothelioma standards, and develop in the lining that surrounds the heart and the testicles, respectively.
Only Prolonged, Direct Exposure to Asbestos Puts a Person at Risk of Mesothelioma
Most of the people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are men who worked in industries that frequently used asbestos. This limits the number of women who could have been directly exposed to asbestos, even though women are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. Although women also worked in industries that could have exposed them to asbestos, many of the women diagnosed with mesothelioma each year are found to victims of so-called “secondary exposure.”
Secondary exposure refers to indirect exposure with asbestos that could have happened in a variety of ways, like when a woman greeted her husband after work, or while she was doing laundry. Working all day at a site where asbestos dust filled the air would leave a person caked in dust containing asbestos. Men would then go home to their wives who would breathe in the asbestos that covered their husbands, placing them at risk of mesothelioma.
There Is No More Risk of Asbestos Exposure in the United States
Although asbestos is not as widely used as it once was, it is not banned in the United States. This means that people can, in some ways, still be exposed to U.S.
That’s not to say that an asbestos ban hasn’t been tried. Decades ago, when the general public learned that asbestos caused mesothelioma, its use was severely cut in the U.S. By 1989 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a full ban on the importation, processing, manufacturing and sale of products containing asbestos. However, that ban was overturned in court in a 1991 lawsuit brought by supporters of the asbestos industry against the EPA.
Nevertheless, today new products are not allowed to contain asbestos. However, any product or procedure that utilized it prior to 1989 is allowed to continue doing so as long as they don’t use spray-applied asbestos. Overall, the U.S. is unique in its continued use of asbestos, as more than 50 of the world’s most industrialized nations have banned its use, according to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat.
There is some good news, though. There are currently five major commercial products – including corrugated paper, rollboard, commercial paper, speciality paper, and flooring felt – that are prohibited from containing asbestos.
There Are No Treatment Options for Mesothelioma
It is well known that mesothelioma is always fatal, but this does not mean there are no treatment options. Although treatments for mesothelioma are unable to cure a person, they can greatly improve their quality of life.
Treatment options vary based on the age of the patient and the stage of the cancer when the diagnosis is made. The earlier physicians find the cancer, the more treatment options available.
The treatment options currently available to mesothelioma patients are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. New treatment options are currently being tested in clinical trials, and patients should consider these if they qualify. A medical team will know about all the available treatment options, but be sure they have experience treating mesothelioma so no treatment option is overlooked.
A Person Can Get Mesothelioma from Smoking
Although mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs in three out of four mesothelioma patients, it has nothing to do with smoking. Even though asbestos-related lung cancer does exist, and people who smoke are more likely to be diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer, that has nothing to do with mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is exclusively linked to asbestos exposure, and no connection to smoking has been found, according to researchers.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma it is important to learn as much as possible about the disease. Many more misconceptions exist about mesothelioma, often making it seem more hopeless than it actually is. If you would like to continue reading about mesothelioma, please visit our mesothelioma page to download a free, no sign-up required ebook that answers the most frequently asked questions about mesothelioma.