Women With a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Men are far more likely to develop mesothelioma than women, but there have certainly been cases where women have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. 

Is Mesothelioma in Women Common? 

Mesothelioma in women does not occur as frequently as it does in men, but it is still possible. About 1 in 4 mesothelioma cases in the United States occur in women. Women have a much higher survival rate also. 

Women are typically diagnosed at a younger age.

Younger patients are more likely to respond well to treatment and recover well after treatment. Women are also less likely to develop mesothelioma because they are exposed to asbestos less than men. 

Why Are Men Exposed to Asbestos More Often? 

Asbestos is a mineral that was heavily used in many male-dominated industries for decades. The many uses of this versatile product became well-known and widespread all over the world. 

Asbestos was an incredibly lucrative mineral, so it was difficult to break the news publicly that asbestos exposure and inhalation was causing health problems among the workers who came into contact with it. Most of these workers were men at the time.  

The fireproof property of asbestos was not the only benefit of the mineral. Asbestos is also heat resistant, water-resistant, and has impressive insulation potential. 

These benefits made the mineral incredibly popular and it began being used in more and more industries such as electrical generators, ovens, boilers, and the railroad industry. Again, these industries are all male-dominated. 

Since asbestos is made of fine fibers, it is easy to incorporate into almost any material. It can be woven into cloth, mixed with concrete, and combined into other building materials. 

Women could come into contact with asbestos directly, but asbestos exposure was more likely to be from second hand exposure when their husbands brought home the asbestos fibers and dust on their clothes at the end of the workday.  

How Are Women Exposed to Mesothelioma?

Even though men are more likely to be exposed to mesothelioma in the workplace, there were still some women who were working in the asbestos industry and could have been exposed that way. 

Other ways that women could have been exposed is by living in an environment that was contaminated with asbestos or by handling the work clothes of a family member who frequently came into contact with asbestos. 

This type of secondary exposure is the most common way that women came into contact with asbestos. 

There is also a possibility that women could have been exposed to asbestos through contaminated talc powder. This contamination was a problem for many years and was distributed in products throughout the country. 

Diagnosing Mesothelioma in Women

Doctors use the same tests and procedures to diagnose mesothelioma in women as they do in men. The process usually begins with the patient coming in to express discomfort due to certain symptoms. 

Then, the doctor will run imaging tests and scans such as x-rays, MRIs, PET scans, or CT scans. All of these tests produce images that allow doctors to see any dense mass in the body. If a mass is discovered, the doctors may then do a biopsy. 

A biopsy is a surgical test where the doctor will remove several cells from the tumor to determine if it is cancerous or not. Once that is determined, the doctors will diagnose the stage and type of the cancer. 

Once a diagnosis has been made, the doctor can begin to talk about treatment options. 

Symptoms of Mesothelioma in Women

Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms associated with mesothelioma can easily be mistaken for other, less serious medical conditions. Usually, in the early stages of rare cancer, no symptoms are present. In these cases, mesothelioma is often detected by accident when a doctor is performing another surgery or scan for something else. 

When symptoms do present themselves, women and men experience the same set of symptoms. 

Some of these symptoms include but are not limited to shortness of breath, prolonged hoarseness, persistent cough, coughing up blood, low blood oxygen levels, anemia, weight loss, weakness, feeling of abdominal fullness, lack of appetite, and extreme tiredness. 

Again, these symptoms could also indicate other issues, so it is incredibly important to let your doctor know if you have a history of asbestos exposure or if you have ever lived with anyone who has had prolonged asbestos exposure. 

Treating Mesothelioma in Women

When it comes to treating mesothelioma at any stage, women have the same treatment options as men. Currently, there are three main mesothelioma treatment options, though no known cure exists at this time. 

Surgery is the most effective form of treatment because it works to completely remove the cancerous tumors. Women do have a slight advantage in this area because they are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age. 

When it comes to surgery, the younger the patient, the more likely surgery will be an option because patients are less likely to have other health issues that could complicate recovery after surgery or other treatment. 

Another form of treatment for mesothelioma is chemotherapy. There are currently two main chemotherapy drugs that are being used to treat mesothelioma and these can be effective in both women and men alike.

Radiation is another option for treating mesothelioma, and for a long time, it was considered much too dangerous to perform. Radiation was considered dangerous because the cancer was in the lining around many major organs and the fear was that the radiation would do more damage to the nearby organs than to the cancer itself. Now that we have more research on radiation therapy, we are able to ensure the safety of the organs and only direct radiation to the exact area of treatment.  

Living With Mesothelioma

It is possible to live with mesothelioma for some time, especially after successful treatment.

If you are a woman living with mesothelioma, be sure to speak with your doctor to make sure you’re aware of all the possible treatment options.