Although rare, roughly 3,000 new diagnoses in the United States each year, mesothelioma is still a disease targeted by myths and misconceptions. Scientists may not know everything about mesothelioma, but they are aware of a lot of false or misconceiving information floating around. Find the Top 10 most common asbestos and mesothelioma myths and misconceptions below.
Mesothelioma Myths and Misconceptions
1. Mesothelioma is Lung Cancer
Doctors sometimes misdiagnose mesothelioma with lung cancer due to similar symptoms. There are clear differences that prove mesothelioma is not lung cancer. Mesothelioma often forms in the chest cavity, but it is not a form of lung cancer. Mesothelioma tumors form in the pleural tissue that surrounds the lungs and diaphragm. Lung cancer, however, develops inside the lungs. The two different forms of cancer develop tumors in different ways. Lung cancer tumors develop in lumps that can grow to 7 centimeters or larger. Mesothelioma tumors, on the other hand, vary in size and spread out along a whole network of tiny tumors.
2. Mesothelioma Can Stay Dormant For Decades
The time between first asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma can take decades. This measurement of time is called the latency period. During the long latency period of 10 to 50 years, the body endures biological and physical changes caused by asbestos fibers. Often a misconception, mesothelioma develops slowly during the latency period but is not cancer that stays dormant.
3. Smoking Causes Mesothelioma
Smoking itself does not increase the risk for or cause mesothelioma. The combination of smoking and asbestos exposure, however, can increase the risk of other types of cancer in the lungs. Some evidence suggests radiation exposure and genetics may cause mesothelioma. The biggest risk factor is asbestos exposure, which accounts for at least 70% of mesothelioma cases.
4. Patients Pass Away Quickly From Mesothelioma
Researchers have not yet cured mesothelioma, but new treatment options help patients live longer. On average, patients survive mesothelioma for about a year with standard chemotherapy treatment. New treatments, including heated chemotherapy (HIPEC) and immunotherapy drugs, have helped patients survive mesothelioma for 10 years or longer.
Asbestos Myths and Misconceptions
5. Asbestos Is Banned in The United States
Myth: The United States banned asbestos. The misconception that asbestos is totally banned stems from the U.S. government banning new uses for the material. Some asbestos-containing products, including construction materials and automobile components, remain legal. Even with extensive legal efforts and tens of millions of dollars spent on the push for a total ban, U.S. citizens still risk exposure.
6. A Little Asbestos Exposure Can’t Cause Mesothelioma
A common myth about asbestos is “a little exposure won’t hurt.” Even the smallest amount of asbestos can be dangerous. Minimal asbestos exposure over a short period of time can still cause mesothelioma. Mesothelioma patients more frequently worked in industries where heavy asbestos exposure occurred over a long time. Indirect contact with asbestos, including washing clothes covered in asbestos dust or living in a home built with asbestos products, is just as dangerous.
7. Asbestos Wasn’t a Known Threat Until The 1970s
Regulations didn’t start phasing out the use of asbestos until the early 1970s when the EPA classified the material as a hazardous air pollutant. However, asbestos has been documented as a threat as early as the late 19th century. In 1924, William Cooke published a medical paper on asbestosis, a disease caused by asbestos exposure. Other studies around that time addressed the fast-growing health issue among asbestos workers. Even as the industry expanded around the world, the documented health issues weren’t enough to prompt the U.S. government to regulate the substance until decades later.
Legal Mesothelioma Myths and Misconceptions
8. Taking Legal Action Will Result in Waiting Years Before Receiving Compensation
The legal process tends to take several months or longer, no matter the case. Mesothelioma patients in poor health can request an expedited case. Patients can speed up the process by providing evidence that asbestos caused their health conditions and a written notice from their doctor stating their diagnosis to speed up the process.
9. Everyone Will Know I Sued
Asbestos lawsuits require minimal involvement by the mesothelioma patient. Claimants often reach a settlement before a trial with confidentiality clauses that keep the patient’s information safe. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you understand your privacy rights throughout the process.
10. If I Am a Veteran, I Will Have To Sue The Military
If you are a veteran with mesothelioma and were exposed to asbestos while serving, pursuing legal action does not mean suing the military. Filing an asbestos claim goes against the manufacturers that created the asbestos-containing materials that caused the exposure.