Mesothelioma can affect anyone who has a history of asbestos exposure. Women have historically represented fewer mesothelioma cancer cases than men due to higher rates of men working in hazardous industries handling asbestos. However, women make up nearly 40 percent of malignant mesothelioma cases today.
As is the case with many diseases, women with mesothelioma face different challenges than men both in the diagnostic process and in treatment. Anyone who believes they have symptoms of malignant mesothelioma should have a medical assessment, including a history of potential asbestos exposure.
Most people are aware today that asbestos poses a serious and deadly health risk. Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma and was widely used in certain industries and manufacturing for its heat resistance and insulation properties. The mineral was used extensively through the 1970s when it became evident that it was a source of a malignant and incurable cancer. The industries in which asbestos was most widely used tended to be male dominated, including ship building, construction, manufacturing, automotive work, and military applications.
The primary cause of mesothelioma is inhalation of the asbestos fibers, which settle in the lungs and other organs. Women make up more occupations at risk of exposure, including construction and emergency services. However, direct inhalation of asbestos fibers is not the only method of acquiring mesothelioma. Women are susceptible to secondhand or other environmental exposure to asbestos. A review of 90 mesothelioma patients found that over 60 percent had asbestos exposure that was not related to their occupation.
Some women have been diagnosed with mesothelioma that was the result of repeated handling and laundering of clothing of someone in the household who worked with asbestos. The asbestos fibers and dust can linger on clothing and over time, inhalation could cause secondhand illness. Personal care products containing talc have also been found to be contaminated with asbestos. Women mesothelioma patients face the challenge of misdiagnosis because of a lack of information on these other sources of exposure. Inherent bias in the medical system is often faced by women patients in a variety of diseases. The early symptoms of this cancer can be vague and associated with other illnesses.
Women can present different symptoms than men, which is often a cough or chest discomfort, while men have breathing impairments. Women may also be more at risk from lower levels of asbestos exposure due to their smaller respiratory systems. For these reasons, women without an occupational history with asbestos run the risk of delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis for an illness, which must be caught early for best treatment options.
If you have mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in your workplace, contact the Pennsylvania asbestos lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler have the experience to fight successfully for your case. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County. For a free consultation, complete our online request form or call us at 215-569-4000.