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Insight

Small but positive step in the ongoing fight against mesothelioma

Danielle Smalley from Hampshire is reported to have been given the all-clear following extensive surgery on her stomach and bowel to remove tumours on her stomach lining, probably caused by swallowing asbestos as a child.

I'm pleased to share the good news of a case involving a 23-year-old woman diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma last April - the very rare form of asbestos cancer.

Danielle Smalley from Hampshire is reported to have been given the all-clear following extensive surgery on her stomach and bowel to remove tumours on her stomach lining, probably caused by swallowing asbestos as a child. Neither she nor her parents know where she had contact with the fatal dust.

Doctors believe her cancer has likely been developing for 20 years and initially thought Ms Smalley had ovarian cancer.

Because mesothelioma generally affects people over the age of 60, who have usually been exposed to asbestos at work, often in the construction and shipbuilding trade, or who have had regular contact with someone wearing overalls coated with asbestos dust, it's extremely rare for anyone in their 20s to be diagnosed with mesothelioma. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were only two reported cases of peritoneal mesothelioma in people under 25 between 2009 and 2016. Asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma can take 30 years to develop and are usually caught too late to be treated effectively.

Coverage of one of our cases published in the Sun recently tells the all-too-familiar story of a hardworking man cut down by the disease having done a job he loved for more than 40 years, exposing him to asbestos.

Although tragically mesothelioma still tends to be fatal, Ms Smalley's treatment, which included heated chemotherapy drugs used to wash her internal organs, is a positive step in the ongoing battle with the aggressive disease.

This together with reports from our conference last September of promising results for immunotherapy treatment for melanoma, which led to trials for its use against mesothelioma, is at least a small glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak arena.

According to the US website Mesothelioma.com, potential sources of childhood exposure to asbestos include:

  • Secondhand exposure from a parent who worked with asbestos
  • Asbestos in schools
  • Environmental asbestos (breathing the air or playing in/eating contaminated soil)
  • Asbestos in toys such as chalk, crayons and modeling clay.