Because mesothelioma is mostly diagnosed in people who worked in factories, power plants, auto repair facilities or in other similar industrial jobsites, it has a reputation as a “man’s disease”. And to a great extent, this is true. Mesothelioma affects three to four times more men than women, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control. But women are affected, too.
How do Women Get Mesothelioma?
Women get mesothelioma the same way that men do – by inhaling or ingesting asbestos. While men were more likely to experience occupational asbestos exposure – breathing in asbestos fibers on the job – women faced environmental and secondhand asbestos exposure threats.
One of the most common ways women were exposed to asbestos was through their contact with their husbands’ asbestos-contaminated work clothes. When a wife washed the factory uniforms a spouse wore in an asbestos-laden jobsite, she became high risk for inhaling the fibers from the fabrics.
Women can also be exposed to asbestos through the environment. Living in cities where asbestos was either mined or widely used at a factory (such as was the case in Libby, Montana) may place residents – both male and female – at an elevated risk of developing mesothelioma.
In the unusually rare case of well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma, which is most common in women in their 30s, asbestos exposure is rarely the culprit. Women diagnosed with this form of mesothelioma typically live between three and 10 years after their diagnosis.
Even women who are diagnosed with the more common, aggressive forms of mesothelioma (pleural, peritoneal and pericardial) tend to respond more favorably to treatment than men. Female patients tend to be given a better prognosis than their male counterparts.
Female Mesothelioma Survivors
Women who are diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer may feel as though they are in the minority, but in reality, there are a number of female mesothelioma survivors with whom they can relate. Angela Winsor, who was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2011, remains active with her church, her job and her fitness activities, while survivor Judy Glezinski has written a book about her story.
Bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.
The informational content of this article is intended to convey general educational
information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.