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In my life, I've had a few people struggle and die of mesothelioma.  I really wasn’t educated on the disease back then, but with Gianni having the rare PML Leukemia, I’ve been interested to learning more about mesothelioma which is also rare with about 3,000 cases yearly in the US and 400 in Canada.


Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that covers many internal organs, the mesothelioma. This tissue layer covers the lungs, chest wall, abdomen, and the sac surrounding the heart and testis.  There are four types of mesothelioma cancers:

  1. Pleural – cancer of the pleural which is the membrane that surrounds the lungs.  This accounts for 80 – 90% of all cases.  Symptoms include coughing, difficulty swallowing, fatigue, muscle aches, chest pains, shortness of breath and weight loss.

  2. Peritoneal – cancer of the peritoneum, the lining of organs in the abdomen and accounts for 10 – 20% of all cases.  Symptoms include abdominal pain, fluid buildup, decreased appetite, weight loss, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and bowel problems.

  3. Pericardial – cancer of the pericardium, the lining of the heart and is very rare with less than 1% of cases.  Symptoms include trouble breathing, chest pains, leg swelling, fatigue, fever, heart murmurs, and shortness of breath

  4. Testicular – cancer of the tunica vaginalis which is the membrane around the testicles.  It is the rarest form of mesothelioma with fewer than 100 cases reported. Symptoms include fluid buildup in the scrotum, swollen testicles or a mass in the scrotum. 

 Picture taken from the Lanier Law Firm

More than 80% of cancer cases are due to exposure to asbestos, a fibrous silicate mineral that when processed or by abrasion become fibrils and easily inhaled.  Asbestos was partially banned in the US in 1989 and Canada fully banned it in 2018.  Even with these bans in place we see numbers of cases for this cancer because it takes years for exposure to lead to mesothelioma.  This latency period can be 20 – 40 years or longer. 


For many years homes were insulated with asbestos as well as other building materials.  Workplaces that fostered a higher risk of exposure to asbestos are:

  • Construction and building companies

  • Automotive repair shops

  • Shipbuilding companies

  • Mining companies

  • Chemical manufacturing companies

  • Textile production

  • Insulation manufacturers

  • Oil refineries or power plants

  • Firefighting

  • Military service

  • Railroad companies

  • Steel manufacturers


Because of this almost 20 million Americans are at risk of getting Mesothelioma in their lifetime.  What is really scary is that most of the symptoms don’t automatically trigger a mesothelioma diagnosis, therefore causing it to go unnoticed until it is far along.  Without treatment life expectancy is only a few months.  Treatment can extend life expectancy, however mesothelioma is considered incurable and long-term remission is very rare. 

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma it will be tough to get through the original diagnosis, but know you are not alone.  Keep in constant touch with your doctors, family and friends to ensure you get the support you need.  There are also many great resources online that have information about the cancer, mental health support, legal support, and so much more.  Here are a few I have found:    


In Canada the Canadian Cancer Society has lots of information on mesothelioma as well as helpline to chat with them. 


In the United States, there is a great resource on Mental Health and Mesothelioma available through the Lanier Law Firm as well as their Mesothelioma Facts page that you can get a wealth of information. is another great resource for Mental Health information as well as everything you need to know about mesothelioma.    


I know life throws us curve balls, with Gianni’s Leukemia diagnosis I had to learn so much about the cancer, how I could support him, and how I needed to take care of me to take care of him.  Life can be a tough sometimes, but live it well always….Because We Only Have One!




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