Mesothelioma is a relatively uncommon disease and a rare form of cancer. In fact, only about 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year.
While this number is much higher than we want it to be, it still means that mesothelioma is classified as a rare illness. As such, there remain several misconceptions about mesothelioma.
While there are misconceptions across the field of health, mesothelioma’s rarity means that it’s particularly susceptible to misinformation.
There is less in-depth research about this aggressive type of cancer than many other cancers, making misunderstandings and confusion even more likely.
4 Misconceptions About Mesothelioma
To combat medical misinformation, we’ve compiled this list of common mesothelioma-related misconceptions you may encounter. By addressing some of the myths about mesothelioma, patients and their families can receive a high-quality and accurate portrait of what mesothelioma is.
Fully understanding your diagnosis and treatment options is critical to surviving such a rare and complex cancer. We strive to provide you with a high caliber of resources and information so you can make better, more informed decisions about your diagnosis.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions about mesothelioma.
1. Mesothelioma Is a Form of Lung Cancer
Although pleural mesothelioma is found in the lining of the lung (also known as the pleura), this type of mesothelioma isn’t actually considered a form of lung cancer — a common misconception about mesothelioma.
One of the key differences is the location of the cancer.
Mesothelioma only occurs in the protective lining, while other types of lung cancer can be found in the lung tissue itself. Lung cancer also often manifests as distinct tumors, while mesothelioma tumors tend to fuse together.
It’s true that mesothelioma and lung cancer share some similarities. For example, both cancers can present similar symptoms, such as chest pain, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.
Lung cancer can also be linked to asbestos exposure — known as asbestos-related lung cancer. Sometimes, asbestos exposure can also place smokers at risk of developing lung cancer, however, smoking is not a direct cause of developing mesothelioma.
2. Only Those Who Worked in Proximity to Asbestos Develop Mesothelioma
While it’s important to be aware of the many jobs that exposed workers to asbestos, it’s also essential to note that it wasn’t only the workers themselves who suffered from health consequences.
Secondhand asbestos exposure is responsible for mesothelioma cases across the country.
Although mesothelioma is a disease that affects primarily men who worked in male-dominated industries, many women and children were at risk of secondary asbestos exposure.
Second-hand asbestos exposure could occur in a number of ways.
When asbestos fibers were released at a worksite, they could get caught on a worker’s clothing or gear. These fibers could then be carried into the home where they would be handled or laundered without proper precautions. The airborne fibers could pollute the home and affect anyone living there.
3. Mesothelioma Only Affects Adults and The Elderly
Although it’s true that mesothelioma overwhelmingly affects older adults, the disease is not limited to older demographics. Recent years have seen more and more cases of mesothelioma in younger patients — primarily younger women.
Cases involving younger patients have been linked to second-hand exposure, with many having grown up in households where the fathers worked in fields with high asbestos exposure risk.
There is evidence that second-hand exposure often occurred when children’s clothes were laundered in the same load as their father’s work clothing.
Younger patients may also have been exposed to asbestos in the structures of their homes, schools, workplaces, or deposits of natural asbestos.
4. Mesothelioma Only Develops with Long-Term Asbestos Exposure
The less asbestos exposure, the safer, of course. But it is not true that mesothelioma only develops after a person has been exposed to asbestos heavily and over a long period of time.
As far as scientists know right now, there is no safe amount of asbestos. Any information suggesting otherwise is a misconception about mesothelioma and how it develops.
Contact us today if you have any questions. Check back to our blog for more up-to-date information about mesothelioma news and treatment research.