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Action Mesothelioma day - the importance of being awake

Yellow tape reading 'Asbestos' - mesothelioma
22nd June 2016

Action Mesothelioma Day takes place on the 1st July and is an important day for raising awareness of a deadly, but almost entirely preventable, form of cancer. This disease has a devastating effect and the UK has seen almost a 500% increase in incidence since the 1970s.

This post looks at the causes of Mesothelioma, who can be affected, whether you’re at risk, and what to do if you are diagnosed.  

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma takes the form of a malignant tumour in the pleura, pericardium, or peritoneum – the membranes that form the lining of the lungs and upper body organs. Symptoms can include weight loss, fever, chest pain, and breathlessness as well as abdominal pain.

The primary cause of Mesothelioma (approximately 94% of cases) is exposure to and inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres.

Throughout the 20th century asbestos was used in the construction and engineering industries due to its low cost and flame retardant properties. Its use in the UK peaked in the 1960s and 70s before being made illegal in 1999.

It’s important to understand that there can sometimes be decades between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma, and while there is greater risk if exposure occurred frequently, one incidence of inhalation can still carry a high level of risk.

Who’s affected?

Mesothelioma affects almost five times as many men than women, primarily due to the construction industry’s traditionally male-dominated workforce.

Tragically, there are also numerous incidences of workers’ family members developing mesothelioma later in life, having been exposed to asbestos fibres and dust brought home on work clothing.

With its widespread use in schools, it has also become increasingly apparent that teaching staff and children have also been at risk. Cases of mesothelioma have developed in those who have worked in classrooms where, for example, pupils’ work was pinned or stapled onto walls or boards containing asbestos.

With the number of cases rising year-on-year, many people believe that we are yet to see the full effect of asbestos’ use on society. The Health and Safety Executive predict that the number of men dying from mesothelioma will not peak until 2038.

Are you at risk?

Asbestos is generally considered safe if left undisturbed. It is only when it becomes airborne and there is a chance of inhalation that it is considered a health risk.

You can see a full list of risk factors on the Health and Safety Executive website, but it is important to remember that you cannot see or smell asbestos fibres once in the air, and the material’s prevalence in buildings constructed prior to the year 2000 will vary. In some cases, asbestos in a given building may not be properly documented.

If you work in refurbishment, maintenance, decoration or any other related trade, it is vital that you understand the risks involved in working with asbestos, and know how to mitigate them by following safety procedures. 

What if you’re diagnosed?

A tragic aspect of mesothelioma and its impact is its long latency period. The time between exposure and the development of symptoms can take decades. When symptoms do manifest, there may be little that can be done with regard to treatment, although advancements in treatment and clinical trials are happening all the time.

The emotional impact of a diagnosis can be devastating for you and your loved ones. If you have been diagnosed, it’s important to know that we may be able to help you and your family as you adapt to life with the consequences.

Our video guide to mesothelioma claims is a useful place to start. Your Legal Friend’s team is experienced, and dependable and discuss your situation with the care and sensitivity it demands. If you’d like to talk to us right now, you can give us a call on  0808 159 6443.