The case of a man who contracted mesothelioma after working in an industry not typically associated with asbestos illustrates the importance of digging deep into a patient’s history to make an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis.
Asbestos has been heavily regulated in the US – and banned in 55 other countries – since it was linked to malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other illnesses in the 1960s. Unfortunately, it can still show up and wreak havoc in unexpected places.
Unusual Asbestos Exposure
A new report published in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health details the case of a 70-year-old Italian man who worked as a carpenter for six years in a small furniture company.
Thirty years after leaving the position, the man died of sarcomatoid pleural mesothelioma – a rare but highly aggressive form of the asbestos-linked cancer.
Although the furniture industry is not normally associated with mesothelioma risk, the man was apparently exposed to asbestos in cement tubes that were used to reproduce classical columns.
In violation of the rules regarding the use of asbestos in workplaces, no specific work safety measures were applied and the man was not given any protective gear.
Mesothelioma Diagnosis – A Process of Elimination
There is no blood test or imaging scan that can definitively diagnose malignant pleural mesothelioma. Instead, doctors must act as investigators, considering not only a patient’s symptoms and test results, but also his or her history.
The case of the mesothelioma patient exposed to asbestos in a furniture company shows just how difficult – but also how valuable – this kind of investigation can be.
Because the man had not worked in a high-risk industry and because his employment had ended decades earlier, his doctors might never have diagnosed mesothelioma if they had not asked the right questions.
“Despite its uncommon expositive circumstance, the length of latency (about 30 years), the duration of exposure, the clinical and histochemical features are all consistent with literature evidence,” write Enrico Oddone and Marcello Imbriani of the University of Pavia.
Lessons for Patients, Doctors and Lawyers
The Italian case contains some important lessons for suspected mesothelioma patients, their physicians, and their lawyers.
It is vital for patients who are experiencing symptoms consistent with mesothelioma to give their doctors a thorough account of their work and life history, even if the details do not seem important at the time.
From a legal standpoint, such a history is also vital since mesothelioma patients who are found to have been negligently exposed to asbestos may be eligible for compensation.
Oddone, E and Imbriani, M, “Pleural mesothelioma: Case report of uncommon occupational asbestos exposure in a small furniture industry”, 2016, pp. 523-526,