What is Mesothelioma?

Asbestos-related diseases are caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral and it’s a fibre. Its unique properties – flexibility, tensile strength, insulation (from heat and electricity) and chemical inertness – once gave it a reputation as one of the most useful and versatile minerals known to humanity. It is the only natural mineral that can be spun and woven like cotton or wool into useful fibres and fabrics.

At one time, asbestos was used in more than 3000 products. From 1950 to 1970, asbestos was everywhere. While the use of asbestos declined from the 1980s, asbestos continued to be imported into Australia until January 2004.

As a result, many people in the community are likely to have been exposed to asbestos and develop an asbestos-related disease. It is unusual for it to strike someone under the age of 30 years, because there is generally a period of 15 to 40 years between exposure to asbestos and the occurrence of disease.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs at any time from 10 to 60 years after first exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma can also occur in the peritoneum. The average life expectancy following diagnosis with mesothelioma is about 1 year although significant variations of malignant mesothelioma do occur. Mesothelioma develops from the mesothelial cells of the pleura. Mesothelioma is much more common amongst men then in women.

In most instances malignant mesothelioma develops after anywhere from 20-50 years after asbestos exposure.