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Today’s guest blog post is from Dr Simon Taggart, a consultant chest and general physician and former lead lung cancer clinician with a specialist interest in mesothelioma. Simon has kindly agreed to outline some of the latest research into women and mesothelioma.
Each year approximately 2700 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the UK of which about 460 (17%) occur in females.
Historically, mesothelioma is linked with traditional male-orientated trades such as carpentry, plumbing, painting and decorating. As such, it comes as no surprise to learn that the majority of diagnoses are made in men who work directly with asbestos products.
However, women too are at risk of mesothelioma when carrying out a variety of employments in areas contaminated by asbestos dust but also when they clean and wash the clothes of their husbands (so-called ‘overalls mesothelioma’). The nature of their exposure is significantly different to their male counterparts.
Recent evidence suggests that women are less likely than men to seek legal advice in this setting and furthermore, their indirect exposure can lead to more prolonged legal argument which may lead to less success in obtaining compensation. [Senek et al. 2020, cancer nursing]
Gender differences in mesothelioma
The recent Gendered Experience of Mesothelioma Study (GEMS) set out to gain insights into the experience and health and support needs of both men and women living with mesothelioma and the results showed conclusively that women do not have the same experience of mesothelioma as men.
It is hoped that the knowledge gained from this valuable study will help improve the care of our female patients by tailoring information and support systems in the context of their complex social interactions and belief systems. This may also help shape their decision-making processes when contemplating treatment of their mesothelioma.
The good news for females is that despite their apparent experiential differences, a recent UK study of nearly 8500 new cases of mesothelioma showed that female individuals had a significantly better overall survival even after allowing for differences in age, performance status and type of mesothelioma. The reasons for the difference in outcome are not yet fully understood and deserving of further research. (Source: Alpert at al. Am J Clin Oncol, 2020).
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