Published on:

New Study Shows Suspected Breast Cancer May be Mesothelioma

Many people think mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer. While mesothelioma is a cancer that can occur in the lungs, it is not considered lung cancer. Mesothelioma occurs when a patient inhales asbestos fibers and those fibers become embedded in a layer of protective tissues known as the mesothelium.

Over a period of 20 to 50 years, these fibers can metastasize into malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can be found in the lungs, chest, abdomen, and other organs where mesothelium is present and can spread to other organs where it is not.

dna-1-1010760-m.jpgWhile it is easy for doctors to distinguish mesothelioma from lung cancer, it is not always so easy to determine whether a patient is suffering from breast cancer or mesothelioma, according to a new study published in the World Journal of Surgical Oncology.

The new study began when a 49-year-old woman presented with a three-centimeter hard lump in the layers of tissue of her right breast. Oncologists performed a biopsy and sent the removed tissue to a laboratory so histology could be performed.

The results of the biopsy surprised doctors, because, while the lump was definitely malignant, estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors were not consistent with a breast cancer diagnosis. The diagnosis was actually more consistent with being pleural malignant mesothelioma.

Armed with this knowledge, doctors performed a detailed work history to determine how patient would have been exposed to asbestos. This is important, because mesothelioma is extremely rare absent residential or occupational exposure to deadly asbestos fibers.

As it turned out, patient was a hairdresser for many years, and, during much of the last century, hair dryers were made with asbestos insulation, which would break down over time. Once asbestos breaks down, it becomes what is known as friable asbestos. As our Boston asbestos exposure attorneys can explain, friable asbestos is capable of being crumbled under the pressure of a human hand. This is the most dangerous form of asbestos, as it is easily able to give off dust that people can inhale and become sick.

One of the most interesting findings to doctors who treated this patient was the mesothelioma had spread to the breast tissue. This is relatively rare, but may be more common than initially thought, due to the possibility of pleural mesothelioma being mistakenly diagnosed as breast cancer. This can create a serious problem for patients, because, while the cancers are similar in many ways, they respond to treatment very differently.

In terms of personal injury lawsuits, there would also be a major difference, as patients who were diagnosed with breast cancers would not generally have a cause of action unless plaintiffs could prove specific exposure to a cancer-causing agent and prove their exposure was due to do someone else’s negligence.

On the other hand, mesothelioma is nearly always caused by someone else’s negligence. If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, one of the most important things to do, as seen is this case, is to review your employment history and try to determine when and where you were exposed to asbestos. It is also possible you were exposed to asbestos from someone else living in your home who was exposed to asbestos as a part of his or her occupation.


If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Breast cancer or metastasis? An unusual case of metastatic malignant pleural mesothelioma to the breast , February 25, 2015, World Journal of Surgical Oncology
More Blog Entries:

Bostic v. Georgia-Pacific Corp.: Actual and Proximate Causation in Mesothelioma Litigation, July 21, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog