Asbestos Ovarian Cancer

Women are at an increased risk of ovarian cancer if they worked with asbestos, used products contaminated with it (like talcum powder), or if they lived with people who worked around it, such as U.S. veterans. Thankfully, women can pursue financial compensation if they develop asbestos-related ovarian cancer. Get more information below.

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How Does Asbestos Cause Ovarian Cancer?

When products made with asbestos become worn down or damaged, microscopic fibers are released into the air. Those nearby can then inhale or swallow the asbestos fibers without realizing it.

In cases of ovarian cancer, asbestos fibers enter the body through the reproductive tract. This may happen when women use asbestos-contaminated hygiene products like talcum powder. Since talc and asbestos are often found alongside one another in nature, talc-based products may contain stray asbestos fibers.

Once inside the body, asbestos fibers never leave. They can get stuck in healthy tissue and eventually cause cancer after years of inflammation and scarring.

Did you know?

Both the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) note that asbestos exposure may cause ovarian cancer.

Asbestos exposure was not recognized as a public health crisis until millions of people were already put in danger. Fortunately, women diagnosed with ovarian cancer due to asbestos exposure can pursue financial compensation and health care benefits today.

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Women at Risk of Asbestos Ovarian Cancer

According to the Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, the exact means by which asbestos causes ovarian cancer are not fully understood — but some women may be at a greater risk.

Women have a higher incidence of asbestos ovarian cancer if they:

  • Lived with people (such as military personnel) that worked with asbestos
  • Regularly used talc powder, which may have contained asbestos fibers
  • Were otherwise exposed to asbestos on a regular basis
  • Worked with or around asbestos-based products

Talcum Powder in Asbestos & Ovarian Cancer Risks

More and more women are claiming that long-term use of Johnson & Johnson® (J&J) baby powder and other talc-based products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

Recent lawsuits claim that talc-based baby powder manufactured by J&J is cross-contaminated with asbestos. According to a December 2018 Reuters report, J&J allegedly found traces of asbestos in their baby powder as early as the mid-1950s. However, the corporation continued to use talc and hid the truth about the asbestos fibers.

Did you know?

In October 2019 — more than 60 years after J&J first learned of asbestos in its talc — a test from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found asbestos fibers in a shipment of the company’s baby powder.

In a recent class-action lawsuit against J&J, $4.7 billion was awarded to 22 women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer from using the company’s talc products. Thousands of other women and their families have since filed ovarian cancer lawsuits against the company.

The mounting lawsuits and negative publicity led J&J to stop selling its talc-based powders in North America, according to the New York Times. Sadly, however, the company still holds fast to the claim that its products are safe.

Diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder? See if you can file a lawsuit today. Call (877) 450-8973.

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Secondhand Asbestos Exposure

In cases of secondhand asbestos exposure, the victim did not directly work around asbestos but was exposed through another person.

Women who lived on U.S. military bases between the 1930s and early 1980s had a high risk of secondhand asbestos exposure. Many products used on the bases contained asbestos products during this time. These women may have been exposed to asbestos indirectly if their loved one brought home fibers on their clothes, skin, or hair.

Further, U.S. veterans whose military trades relied on asbestos, such as shipbuilding or boilertending, often found jobs in similar fields after discharge. This would’ve prolonged both their exposure — and potentially that of their family.

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Occupational Exposure

Women may also have been exposed to asbestos through their jobs. A meta-analysis on asbestos-related ovarian cancer from the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer noted just a few jobs that could put women at risk.

High-risk asbestos jobs for women include:

  • Asbestos cement production
  • Gas mask production
  • Milling
  • Textile work

The link between occupational exposure to asbestos and ovarian cancer has long been established. In the early 1980s, a report noted an “excess” number of ovarian and lung cancer deaths among women who made asbestos-based gas masks during World War II.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Pain
Fatigue
Weight loss

Like other asbestos-related diseases, asbestos ovarian cancer has a long latency period. As a result, it can take 20 to 50 years before symptoms of this cancer appear.

Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Bloated or swollen abdomen
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Menstrual cycle changes
  • Needing to urinate often
  • Quickly feeling full after eating
  • Upset stomach
  • Weight loss

These symptoms are more common in the cancer’s later stages after tumors have spread through the lymphatic system to other body parts. Some women can even have no symptoms.

For example, one of the 22 women involved in the class-action lawsuit detailed above was diagnosed with ovarian cancer only after doctors spotted abnormalities during another procedure.

An oncologist (cancer doctor) noted that the tumors had already spread. This woman was asymptomatic and, therefore, didn’t show any signs of cancer.

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Diagnosing Asbestos Ovarian Cancer

Doctors typically need to perform several gynecologic tests to confirm whether someone has ovarian cancer. They often start with a pelvic exam to see if there are any abnormalities in the reproductive tract.

From there, doctors can use imaging tests to look for tumors inside the body.

Imaging scans commonly used to diagnose ovarian cancer include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
  • Ultrasounds

If doctors see a possibly cancerous tumor on these imaging scans, they’ll order a biopsy, which is a fluid or tissue sample.

Biopsies allow doctors to examine the tumor under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present. This is the only way to confirm an ovarian cancer diagnosis.

Did you know?

Between 85% and 90% ovarian cancer cases are considered epithelial carcinomas, meaning they are cancers that start in the outer layer of the ovaries.

In some cases, doctors may also be able to use tests to see if the cancer is asbestos-related.

For example, one woman who sued Johnson & Johnson found her cancer was caused by asbestos after doctors tested her lymph nodes.

Other tests involve looking at samples of ovarian tissue under a microscope to see if asbestos fibers are present.

Asbestos Ovarian Cancer Prognosis

A prognosis is the projected health outlook for a patient after their diagnosis. It’s typically measured in months and years. According to data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), roughly 49% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will still be alive 5 years later.

That said, a prognosis can vary depending on the individual factors of each patient. Further, a prognosis can change over time depending on how a patient responds to treatments.

 

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Stages of Ovarian Cancer

There are four stages of ovarian cancer, which are classified by how far the cancer has spread. Higher stages mean the cancer has spread more and the patient has a poorer prognosis.

Stage 1

Stage 1 ovarian cancer is confined to one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. Because it is still relatively contained, it is highly treatable. About 95% of women diagnosed in this stage will still be alive 5 years later with proper treatment.

Stage 2

In stage 2, the cancer has spread to nearby organs like the bladder, colon, or uterus. Fortunately, stage 2 ovarian cancer is still highly treatable. Around 70% of patients will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.

Stage 3

In the third stage, the cancer has spread even further, possibly reaching the lymph nodes or the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum). Patients with stage 3 ovarian cancer have a lower chance of long-term survival, as 25% of patients survive for 5 years after diagnosis.

Stage 4

Stage 4 ovarian cancer is the most advanced stage and has the poorest prognosis. By this point, the cancer has reached other major organs like the lungs. Only 15% of women are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed in this stage.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that most women will not be diagnosed in the early stages of this cancer, since symptoms often don’t appear until it has spread. While survival rates are low in the later stages, all stages of ovarian cancer can be treated.

Treatment for Asbestos Ovarian Cancer

It’s possible for women with asbestos ovarian cancer to achieve long-term survival with proper treatment.
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Accessing Treatments for Ovarian Cancer

The ACS notes that most women will undergo surgery to remove the cancerous tumors. Doctors will remove as much of the cancer as possible. They may also take out the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, and parts of other organs depending on the cancer’s spread.

 

“Typically, treatment plans are based on the type of ovarian cancer, its stage, and any special situations.”

– American Cancer Society

Chemotherapy is usually given after surgery for ovarian cancer. Chemotherapy medications allow doctors to kill any leftover cancer cells that surgery could not remove. In some cases, other treatments like radiation therapy or hormone therapy can be used as well.

Doctors will also likely recommend a blood test to monitor a blood protein called CA-125. This protein serves as a biomarker — high levels of it may indicate the cancer has come back after treatment.

With these treatments, women may live longer with their cancer or even achieve remission in which symptoms are reduced or go away completely. This was the case for a Philadelphia woman who was first diagnosed with asbestos-related ovarian cancer in 2014 — and was in remission as of 2020 thanks to proper treatment.

After getting a formal diagnosis, women can access treatments through civilian doctors or through the military if they or their spouse served. Common options include TRICARE and CHAMPVA.

TRICARE

Dependents of veterans (such as spouses) may qualify for TRICARE, the military’s civilian health care program. Those with TRICARE can pursue health care from military hospitals located throughout the country.

CHAMPVA

The VA notes that those who don’t qualify for TRICARE may be able to access benefits from the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). This program grants loved ones of deceased or disabled veterans coverage for a variety of health care services including cancer screenings, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Does asbestos exposure always lead to ovarian cancer?

Not everyone exposed to asbestos will develop ovarian cancer. Asbestos exposure can lead to a number of conditions, including lung cancer, different types of mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

While some exposed to asbestos will never get sick, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Because of the risks that asbestos poses, it’s important to avoid older asbestos-based products that might be damaged and talk to your doctor if you were ever exposed.

What types of asbestos cause ovarian cancer?

There are six types of asbestos which fall into two major groups of amphibole and serpentine.

Five types (actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, and tremolite) belong to the amphibole group. Chrysotile asbestos is the only type that belongs to the serpentine family.

Amphibole asbestos fibers were once thought to be more dangerous due to their sharp, needle-like shape. However, any type of asbestos can cause ovarian cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

Is mesothelioma the same thing as ovarian cancer?

No. Though both ovarian cancer and malignant mesothelioma can be caused by asbestos exposure, they have different health outcomes and treatment options.

Unlike ovarian cancer, mesothelioma forms in different parts of the body, usually the linings of the lungs (pleura) or the abdomen (peritoneum).

This mesothelioma location influences a patient’s health outcome. For example, those with peritoneal mesothelioma may live longer than pleural mesothelioma patients as there are more effective treatments available.

Unlike ovarian cancer, mesothelioma is often fatal even with treatment. Still, some mesothelioma patients have been able to live for years or decades longer than their expected prognosis.

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Legal Help for Asbestos Ovarian Cancer

Life after an ovarian cancer diagnosis can be stressful, especially if the cancer stems from asbestos exposure. Thankfully, you can navigate life after a diagnosis with legal help.

If you or a loved one was diagnosed with asbestos-related ovarian cancer, a law firm may be able to help you access financial compensation. Major asbestos companies sold their goods to the military and general public without disclosing the risks, meaning they may be legally liable if you got sick from exposure.

Compensation from a lawsuit can cover:

  • Basic living expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Medical treatments

Don’t wait — connect with our team today to see if you may qualify for compensation.