July 6th 2018 is Action Mesothelioma Day. On this day, people across the UK will come together to raise awareness about the asbestos cancer, remember those affected by it, and raise money for associated charities. This year we are raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Despite the UK having one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, many people know nothing about the disease. This is because a mesothelioma diagnosis is relatively rare. In the UK, around 2,600 people are diagnosed with the disease every year – but this number is rising.
This article aims to raise much-needed awareness of the disease, answering the question, “what is mesothelioma?” The number of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma is rising year-on-year, but the amount of research and funding into treatments is still low. Awareness is important, because it encourages this research, as well as earlier diagnosis and fundraising.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer which is almost always caused by being exposed to asbestos. The cancer develops in the lining that covers the outer surface of some of the body’s organs. Most commonly, the disease affects the lining of the lungs – known as pleural mesothelioma.
However, the disease can also affect the lining of the stomach, heart, or testicles. Mesothelioma affecting the lining of the stomach is called peritoneal mesothelioma.
Sadly, mesothelioma is generally incurable and is associated with a shortened life-span. Around half of people with mesothelioma will live at least a year following their diagnosis.
Time between asbestos exposure and developing mesothelioma
Mesothelioma has a long “latency period.” This means that the time between being exposed to asbestos, and developing the symptoms of mesothelioma is quite long. The average latency period is between 35-40 years, although the disease can develop after just 10.
This means that most people who develop the disease are between 60 and 80 years old. However, there has recently been an increase in people developing the disease at a much younger age. For example, Danielle Smalley was recently diagnosed at the age of 23.
Men are more likely to be diagnosed
Men are diagnosed with mesothelioma more frequently than women. This is because, in the past, men more commonly worked in jobs which involved handling asbestos. For example, construction work, pipe fitting, lagging etc.
The symptoms of mesothelioma are likely to develop gradually over time. The symptoms of mesothelioma may also change, depending on where the disease is located in the body.
Symptoms of mesothelioma in the lungs (pleural):
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- A high temperature, and night sweats.
- A persistent cough.
- Loss of appetite/unexplained weight loss.
- Clubbed fingertips.
Symptoms of mesothelioma in the stomach (peritoneal):
- Stomach ache or swelling.
- Feeling or being sick.
- Loss of appetite/unexplained weight loss.
- Diarrhoea or constipation.
If you have any persistent or worrying symptoms, we would always advise you to see your GP, especially if you have been exposed to asbestos.
Diagnosis of mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is diagnosed following a series of different tests. These tests may include:
- An x-ray
- A CT scan
- Fluid drainage
- A thoracoscopy or laparoscopy: A thoracoscopy is an examination of the space between your lung and chest wall using a special camera. A laparoscopy is an examination of the inside of the abdomen using a special camera.
- A biopsy
Treatments for mesothelioma
The treatment for this disease, like for any cancer, depends on how far a specific sufferer’s cancer has spread, and their general health. Unfortunately, people are often only diagnosed with mesothelioma once it has reached a late stage. As a result, treatment normally focuses on controlling symptoms and prolonging life, rather than curing the disease. Treatments may include:
- Immunotherapy (an emerging line of treatment for the disease).
Research into new and innovative treatments continues every day.
We work with mesothelioma patients and their families every day to help them to claim the compensation they deserve. Compensation helps mesothelioma sufferers to pay for enhanced treatment, supportive aids, and to leave money to support their families when they are no longer here.
Alongside our work as Solicitors, we also fund-raise for Macmillan Cancer Support, as we understand the vital support they provide to mesothelioma patients daily. Over the past ten years we have raised over £32,000 for the charity.
Action Mesothelioma Day
This Action Mesothelioma Day we will be raising money for Macmillan once again through a Bake Sale. Check our news section next week, and social media on Friday for updates on the event and money raised.
How can we help?
If you or a family member have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767 for free advice. You can also fill in our contact form here.