Mesothelioma Cancer Frequently Asked Questions

My father was just diagnosed with mesothelioma in his stomach. I did not know this was possible. Isn’t it a disease of the lungs?

The most common site for mesothelioma is the pleura, which is the thin membrane that surrounds your lungs. In fact, about three of every four cases of mesothelioma cases are in that membrane. This kind of mesothelioma is known as pleural mesothelioma.

But that is not the only place where mesothelioma can strike. It can also develop in other parts of the body, including the abdomen (Peritoneal mesothelioma) or the protective lining around the heart (Pericardial mesothelioma) and a few other areas of the body, including the reproductive organs.

I live in an industrial area that used to be a shipbuilding center. Several people I’ve known over the years have developed mesothelioma. The number of cases is alarming to me. Isn’t the cancer rare?

You are correct that mesothelioma is a relatively rare disease in the general population. About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is all too common among workers in certain trades and industries, including maritime industries such as shipbuilding, where asbestos was once widely used.

Our site has information about the well-documented occupational hazards of asbestos in the workplace. Asbestos fibers are so toxic that industrial and trade worker’s families were put at risk for developing mesothelioma because particles of asbestos would cling to the clothing or hair of maritime workers and wind up in the workers’ homes. Second-hand exposure to asbestos is called para-occupational exposure and is just as dangerous as working directly with asbestos.

My home was built in 1963 and I’ve noticed some unusual pipe wrapping on the hot water pipes in the basement. Do I need to worry about asbestos?

Exposure to asbestos can occur in homes, especially older ones like yours. Today, most building materials are free of asbestos, but that was not always the case. Before 1970, dozens of constructions materials contained asbestos. The list includes joint compounds, wallboards, gaskets, fireproofing, pipe covering, cements, floor tiles, ceiling tiles and boiler insulation.

If any of these products are disturbed, the asbestos fibers can become airborne and be inhaled, creating the risk of mesothelioma decades after the initial exposure.


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