Mesothelioma – the hidden killer

Mesothelioma – the hidden killer

In 2019, the HSE released a new report showing the ongoing, devastating impact of mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. Although the cancer takes many years to develop after breathing in the fibres, it is usually rapidly fatal following symptom onset with death often occurring within twelve months. Their report states that in 2017 there were 2,523 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain alone, a figure that is similar to that of the previous five years, and a figure that is projected to continue for the rest of this decade. However, when you combine this with the number of other mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer deaths worldwide this figure becomes overwhelming and shows how exposure to asbestos fibres remains the world’s biggest occupational killer.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health’s May 2018 report estimates that asbestos causes 255,000 deaths annually around the world, with 233,000 of these being from work-related exposure.

In the UK alone, 86% of our schools contain asbestos as well as 9 out of 10 of NHS hospitals, so the risk of exposure is real.

With asbestos being commonly used in the construction of domestic, public and commercial buildings prior to its ban in 1999, exposure to asbestos still presents a considerable risk for many workers across c.30 industries in the UK, particularly those in the fields of construction, demolition, maintenance, waste management, and the emergency services. The HSE reported that men who worked in the building industry prior to the ban on using asbestos are most at risk with evidence suggesting that around 85% of all male mesotheliomas are attributable to asbestos exposures that occurred in occupational settings.

In the UK, charity Mesothelioma UK is providing specialist support and resources for those affected by mesothelioma, whether that be for the patient themselves or for their carers. They also fund the integration into the NHS of specialist mesothelioma nurses to ensure provision of the best possible care, as well as investing in research and access to clinical trials. Over the coming five years, Mesothelioma UK aims to continue to grow their support for sufferers of this asbestos-related cancer by expanding their specialist nursing team, continuing to raise awareness of the risks of asbestos exposure, extending their research, and providing further support options for patients. Click here to find out more about the incredible work being carried out by this charity.

Further afield in the US, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) is a non-profit organisation that describes itself as the international collaboration of patients and families, physicians, advocates, and researchers dedicated to eradicating the life-ending and vicious effects of mesothelioma. To date, the Meso Foundation has funded over $10 million of support across 110 research projects in six countries as they work towards this aim. Click here to find out how you can support their crucial work on Mesothelioma Awareness Day – 26th September. #curemeso

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