Guest Blog Spot: Seniors and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is most often caused by a prolonged, occupational exposure to toxic asbestos, but rarely is it diagnosed before the age of 60. It strikes seniors the most, turning the golden years into an unexpected nightmare. A well-planned retirement suddenly can be thrown into chaos.

A patient and his family often are stunned at the news of mesothelioma, discovering the latency period between exposure and diagnosis can be anywhere from 20-50 years. They must come to grips with a long-before cause.

The inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers in your 20s could cause mesothelioma cancer in your 60s.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, striking an estimated 3,000 people annually in the United States. It also is an aggressive cancer, metastasizing rapidly after sitting dormant for decades.

The Good News

The good news is that while there is no definitive cure, therapeutic advances are being made, often creating a curative treatment approach today.

Some seniors are living three, five, and even 10 years and more after diagnosis. Many are living longer and better lives than before.

The key is finding a great mesothelioma specialty center to coordinate treatment, develop a personalized plan and present a multidisciplinary approach.  The gloom and doom of yesterday — a six-month prognosis — is no longer the norm at a specialty center.

The problem often is that too many doctors and oncologists are not versed in the latest treatment approach and patients fall into a nihilistic trap. It is a cancer most doctors rarely see and hardly understand.

It’s critical to find a specialist who sees it often, and who knows the intricacies of the disease and the most up-to-date methods of treating it.

“A lot of people are told, ‘It’s a fatal disease, and there’s nothing you can do,’ and they just give up,” says thoracic surgeon and mesothelioma specialist Dr. Abraham Lebenthal at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “But the fact is, there are specialized treatments out there today that work for many people.”

There is the standard of care that includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The surgery has become more refined, the radiation more precise and the chemotherapy more tolerable.

And there also are clinical trials, new immunotherapy drugs and innovative gene therapy that are working with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is no longer the death sentence it once was. Medical science is moving it toward becoming a chronic disease that can be managed for many years for more and more patients.

There is hope on the horizon.


The Mesothelioma Center provides free support and resources to mesothelioma patients and caregivers. Our Patient Advocates work 1-on-1 to help you find local doctors, treatment centers and support groups. If you or someone you know has mesothelioma, please visit us at to get the help you need.