Mesothelioma and women: Fellow sees challenges


  • Written by: Catalina Valdez

reading time: 4 minutes

Release date: 12/12/2022

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APA (2022, December 12). Mesothelioma and women: Fellow sees challenges. Retrieved December 12, 2022 from

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“Mesothelioma and Women: Fellow Sees Challenges.” asbestos.comDecember 12, 2022,

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Catalina Valdez is pursuing a Masters of Science in Sociology from Brigham Young University. She studies immigration, race and ethnicity, family and language. She is the runner-up of the Autumn 2022 Scholarship.

Over the past year, I have witnessed incredible women endure heartbreaking tragedies.

A mentor from my teenage years found out that her young son had an inoperable brainstem tumor. It is a cancer known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. He has less than four months. Another close friend found out that her mother has terminal cancer. The prognosis is just as bleak.

While my mentor and friend offer much-needed support, they also carry the burden of knowing that their loved ones will soon no longer be by their side. And when they take on their new caregiving role, they cannot give up their ongoing commitments to their other family members.

Painful situations like this are even more common among women whose lives have been touched by mesothelioma, either as caregivers or as patients.

women as reference persons

While asbestos-related cancer primarily affects men, many of their caregivers are their wives, sisters and daughters.

Women are already more likely to perform care functions than men. A 2020 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving showed that women make up 61% of caregivers in the United States. In contrast, according to the latest census figures, about 50.5% of the country’s population is female.

A 2010 study found that mesothelioma patients have an increased risk of mental health problems. Symptoms such as depression, intrusive thoughts, trouble sleeping, and anger were among the mental health problems observed.

Researchers said these symptoms can also cause their caregivers to struggle because caring for someone with mental health problems can be mentally and emotionally draining.

The National Alliance for Caregiving report shows that caregivers whose recipients have mental health issues have:

  • Difficulty finding affordable transportation or home healthcare services.
  • Higher emotional stress.
  • Problems in coordinating care.
  • Time spent managing the recipient’s finances.
  • Difficulty performing daily activities.

These difficulties may seem tiny compared to the struggles that people with mesothelioma face, but mesothelioma diagnoses are not individual experiences. The effects of an incurable disease are felt just as strongly by close family members as they are by the patients themselves.

More research is leading to better treatment for mesothelioma patients and their families. It is important that the experiences of women carers are not overlooked. They play an important role in the care of people with mesothelioma.

How women with mesothelioma deal with emotions

While women generally act as caregivers in the mesothelioma community, they are not immune from contracting it. As a result, women’s experiences as patients are less well represented in research and literature compared to men.

In 2021, the European Journal of Oncology Nursing published a study on the gendered experiences of living with mesothelioma. Researchers found that after their own mesothelioma diagnosis, women felt the need to regulate the emotions of those around them.

A patient tried to convince her boyfriend not to come to her when she was on a ventilator. She didn’t want to add to his fear. Another patient chose not to tell her male partner that she had bled from her stitches. Her reason: “He would have been a nervous wreck.”

This type of emotion management was absent in men, researchers said.

Preferred types of support

The study also reported differences in support preferences between the sexes. Women tended to turn to support groups to discuss their own and others’ experiences. Men were less open to this idea.

This unique way women with mesothelioma respond to their diagnoses is important. They give nurses and medical staff a better understanding of how women with mesothelioma can best be treated.

As we continue our commitment and research to improve mesothelioma patients, we need to look deeply at those affected by mesothelioma – especially the experiences of women – to ensure they too are receiving the best possible care.

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