What (really) is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma Cancer

Image courtesy of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

I know I have seen commercials about asbestos and mesothelioma for at least 15 years. And truly this is all of that I’ve gleaned:

– prolonged exposure to asbestos causes cancer
– mesothelioma is that cancer that it causes

To be honest, I’ve never really gone beyond that. That is, until I was contacted by Heather von St. James and read her survivor’s story .  She is such an inspiration, and she has a heart to spread awareness about this illness. I am glad to partner with her to shed some light on a term that most of us, at best, have just heard of on television.

After reading some materials Heather sent me,  I do understand just a little bit more about this disease and gratefully so. September 26th is the annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day, and this post is my contribution to making us a bit more aware of what this sickness is and how it is caused. Here are some facts that are helpful for us to know:

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that attacks the thin layer of cells lining the body’s internal organs, known as the mesothelium. Pleural mesothelioma is the most prevalent type, the one we hear about most often. It is the type that attacks the lining of the lungs, and it accounts for 70% of reported cases. Heather is a survivor of this type of malignancy.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Image courtesy of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.


The only know cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which is also classified as a carcinogen (cancer causing substance). It was used from the 1930s thru the late 1970s in such places as Naval shipyards, homes, schools, and industrial buildings.

Symptoms don’t usually manifest until decades after exposure to asbestos particles. Mesothelioma can lie dormant in the body for 20-50 years after initial exposure. That is why we are now hearing more about this disease (and lawsuits being filed) than ever before.  It is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70.
The incidence of mesothelioma in women is on the rise, unfortunately. This is due, in large part, to second-hand exposure from parents or spouses who worked in and around asbestos. This was the case in Heather’s diagnosis with the disease.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive disease that is often diagnosed in more advanced stages. Nevertheless, there are treatment options that include radiation, surgery, and/or chemotherapy. There is no cure, but according to Mesothelioma.com, it is a manageable malignancy.

It is my hope that this post has shed a bit more light on what this disease called mesothelioma really is. If you have learned even 1 thing that you didn’t know before, would you take a moment to share this post to help spread awareness and information?  Thank you so much. Also, you can follow Heather von St. James on Twitter (@HeatherVSJ) and you can read more at Mesothelioma.com.

Thanks for spreading awareness,


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