Study Reveals Concerning Gender Disparities in Mesothelioma Treatment

According to a recent study conducted by physicians at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, mesothelioma is not an equal opportunity disease in terms of either its prevalence or in the way that physicians provide treatment. Publishing their findings in the journal Clinical Lung Cancer, the study’s authors determined that women diagnosed with mesothelioma are significantly less likely to undergo surgery or to be treated using the same aggressive treatments that their male counterparts are provided.

Nine-Year Study Includes Data from 19,000 Pleural Mesothelioma Patients

 It has long been known that pleural mesothelioma is more common in men than in women. This is largely attributed to men’s greater likelihood of asbestos exposure within the workplace. When men are diagnosed with the rare and fatal form of cancer, it’s typical for them to have worked in occupations with high likelihood for proximity to the carcinogenic material, while women are either exposed via asbestos having been carried into their home on male family members’ clothing, from having lived near an asbestos mine or processing plant, or from the use of asbestos-contaminated talcum powder.

The gender disparity in prevalence of the disease was both expected and evident in the data obtained from the National Cancer Database, which identified about 4,000 women among the 19,000 mesothelioma patients treated between 2004 and 2013. It was also not a surprise to find that female mesothelioma patients live longer then their male counterparts, which is attributed to being diagnosed at a younger age and to most being diagnosed with the more treatment-responsive epithelioid cell-type of the disease. What had not been anticipated was the disparity in treatment offered to the two genders.

Women with Mesothelioma Have Fewer Aggressive Interventions

The mesothelioma study found data that seems contradictory in terms of both treatment and survival gender differences in mesothelioma patients. While women with mesothelioma tend to have longer survival times — with a one-year rate of survival after diagnosis of 45 percent compared to 38 percent in men — they are also much less likely to undergo surgery or chemotherapy, an issue that the researchers say requires further study. 

According to the report, “Surgery and chemotherapy are disproportionately underutilized in female patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma” despite the fact that female patients are generally in better health at the time of diagnosis than their male counterparts and that they are diagnosed at a median age of 60 rather than the the median age of diagnosis for men, which is 72. Though the researchers say that this last difference may be a function of women being more attuned to changes within their body or more likely to seek diagnosis than men, this does not explain the difference in treatments.

Whether you are male or female, the key to getting the best treatment for mesothelioma is quick diagnosis and getting treatment from the medical centers that offer the most state-of-the-art treatment. For information about accessing these resources, contact the Patient Advocates at today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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