How your gender affects your experience of mesothelioma

Working with Sheffield Univeristy and HASAG Asbestos Disease Support, the asbestos support group for London and the South-east, the charity Mesothelioma UK has published a new study of the ways your gender can affect your experience of mesothelioma.

Differences in the work people have done

Mesothelioma is often  diagnosed after a person has retired, and sometimes a long time after. The report finds that whereas the most common occupation for men with mesothelioma was in the construction industry, the most common occupation for women with mesothelioma was in administration. This is because many people, both women and men, will have been exposed to asbestos in their working environment. You don’t have to handle or work directly with asbestos in order to be affceted by mesothelioma. The report says, “This is particularly the case where the buildings in which [people have] worked (schools, hospitals, offices), were built at the height of asbestos use, and are now beginning to age and decay.” The height of asbestos use was roughly the period from 1945 until the end of the last century, although its use in construction gradually declined from about 1980.

Different awareness of the dangers and the help available

Not surprisingly, people who haven’t actually handled asbestos as part of their work are less aware of its dangers. The report says this applies particularly to women and young people. The report also says that medical staff are less likely to pick up on the link between a patient’s illness and their exposure to asbestos in the workplace if they didn’t handle or work with asbestos directly. This has very significant implications for the sort of welfare benefits, compensation and support that people will receive and makes it all the more important for women who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma to seek specialist advice from charities like ours.

Different needs and attitudes

The report finds that men and women sometimes have different care needs and concerns after they are diagnosed, arising from the different roles they may have played in their family. It also finds that male patients are sometimes sometimes more assertive than women in asking about medical trials and alternative treatments. Seeking advice from other patients in support groups like the one we run, or from our region’s Mesothelioma UK nurse specialist, is one way of gaining the confidence to be more assertive in discussions with your medical team about the most appropriate treatment for you. For the most part, however, the report finds very little difference betwen women and men in their treatment and care.

Talking, listening and being heard

Finally, the report finds that women are more likely than men to want “to talk, [be] listened to and feel heard.” This applies to patients and carers, and those left behind after a loved one has died. If this is important to you, please get in touch with us and join one of our support groups.

You can read the full report here.

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