Mesothelioma is a cancer of mesothelial cells that cover most of the internal organs. The two places where mesothelioma can develop are the lungs and abdomen, but it is most often in the lungs.
Mesothelioma that affects the lungs is called pleural mesothelioma, and in 70-80% of cases are caused by asbestos fibers breathed and get stuck in the tissue covering the lungs (pleura). We do not know for sure what causes mesothelioma in the other 20-30%, although research continues.
Who suffers from mesothelioma?
2000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the UK and the number of people who die should increase to a peak between 2011 and 2015. In fact, the disease can take 15-40 years to develop and blue and brown the asbestos (considered the most likely types of cause mesothelioma) were banned in the late 1908s.
85% of people suffering from mesothelioma are men, which is considered because it is mostly men who worked in occupations related to asbestos. Most women who develop mesothelioma are believed to have inhaled asbestos fibers while cleaning the clothes of husbands who have worked with the material.
Tradesfolk which are particularly likely to have handled asbestos and are at high risk of developing mesothelioma industrial disease include:
- Sheet metal workers
- Gas Fitters
What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
- pain in the lower back or side of the chest
- persistent cough
- difficulty swallowing
These symptoms do not necessarily mean a person has mesothelioma they could apply to a range of other diseases, but it is much more likely if they had contact with asbestos.
What is the prognosis for mesothelioma?
The majority of people who suffer from mesothelioma only see their doctor when it has reached an advanced stage, and at this stage it is likely that the survival is less than a year.
It depends a lot on a series of factors, however, which include blood count, general health and mesothelioma which type a person has.
One study found that 3 years after diagnosis, 1 in 10 people survived, and after 5 years, the survival rate was 1 to 20. However, other studies have shown a much better survival rate, with one study finding that 1-3 mesothelioma patients survived for 5 years or more, although this study only looked at people with epithelioid type tumors.
There is no cure for mesothelioma, but a variety of medications and treatments such as chemotherapy may help delay symptoms of the disease.
What should someone do if they are diagnosed with mesothelioma?
If there is a history of contact with asbestos in the workplace, an industrial disease claim could be an option to consider. If successful, it will provide financial support to help mesothelioma patients and their families pay for treatment and care, as well as a substantial compensation for exposure to asbestos that caused the disease.
Although most claims must begin within 3 years of the injury occurs, the nature of asbestos-related disease means that the disease does not become evident for many years, of declarations of industrial diseases are still valid until they are started within 3 years of diagnosis.