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Frequently Asked Questions: Information for Families

What does it mean when doctors say mesothelioma has a long “latency” period?

In the medical world, the terminology “latency period” typically refers to the period of time that passes from exposure to a potential agent that causes a disease and the point where the symptoms become apparent. This is also called the incubation period. Where mesothelioma is concerned, this period can take decades. The disease has been nicknamed the “slow killer” as it typically progresses slowly and normally takes years to eventually result in the person’s death.

mesothelioma prognosis

According to medical experts, mesothelioma’s latency period can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years once the initial exposure to asbestos has occurred. However, there have been reported cases of this latency period being longer or shorter than the 20-50 year average. A person who has recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma could have been exposed to asbestos as recently as the 1980s or as long ago as the 1950s.

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