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With 3000 new patients diagnosed each year, mesothelioma is considered a rare cancer. There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about what the disease is, how it develops, and the available treatment options. We debunked some of the most common mesothelioma misconceptions to help you develop a more accurate perspective of the disease.
Myth: Mesothelioma is lung cancer
Mesothelioma can develop in the area of the lungs, but it is different from lung cancer. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial cells which make up the lining of the lungs and other organs. The symptoms of mesothelioma can mimic lung cancer because of the way they affect the respiratory system. Pleural mesothelioma, in particular, develops in the lining of the lungs and is usually mistaken for lung cancer.
Myth: Only men get mesothelioma
Many job sites in the mid-20th century were set in industrial areas with a high prevalence of asbestos. Men outnumbered women in the working class by a ratio of 4:1 and, therefore, more men were exposed to asbestos and asbestos-related diseases than women. However, both women and children can develop mesothelioma via secondhand exposure.
Myth: Only elderly people get mesothelioma
Although the average age of a mesothelioma patient is 65 at the time of diagnosis, it is possible for both kids and young adults to develop the cancer. An increase in secondhand exposure has led to a decrease in the average age. Children exposed to asbestos at a young age are more likely to develop mesothelioma earlier in life.
Myth: Smoking causes mesothelioma
Smoking is not a cause of mesothelioma and does not increase the likelihood of someone developing mesothelioma if they have been exposed to asbestos. Smoking does, however, complicate the function of the lungs. If a smoker has been exposed to asbestos, he or she is more likely to develop asbestosis. Smoking also increases an individual’s chances of developing lung cancer by 50 percent.
Myth: Mesothelioma is contagious and hereditary
Mesothelioma is not contagious. If a family member or loved one develops mesothelioma it is usually caused by secondary exposure when someone brings the fibers into the home on his or her clothing following direct exposure.
Myth: Asbestos is OK in small amounts
There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Many times cancer caused by asbestos is a result of only a few resilient fibers attached to the pleural lining of the lung. According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, all levels of asbestos exposure studied to date have demonstrated asbestos-related disease.
Treatment and Prevention
Myth: Asbestos is banned, so no one is at risk of exposure anymore
Asbestos is banned in many countries, but not in the United States. Currently over 3000 consumer products contain asbestos. Even with a ban on asbestos, though, risk of exposure still exists as many consumer products developed and used prior to the 1980s are still in tact and in use today. For a list of products likely to contain asbestos see here.
Myth: Treatment is expensive
Many mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos and many are eligible for financial compensation if they were wrongly exposed. Mesothelioma attorneys work with patients and their families to make a claim and, hopefully, win a settlement. This financial assistance helps patients gain access to the best treatments available and gives security to their families.
Myth: Mesothelioma is untreatable
Although there is no known cure for mesothelioma, there are a number of treatment options. Surgery, mesothelioma radiation and chemotherapeutic drugs are all available therapies for a mesothelioma patient. These and other alternative mesothelioma treatments can extend patient survival rates much longer than untreated disease. Doctors and researchers continue to test new treatment methods to allow for the longest and most comfortable life possible for a mesothelioma patient.