Asbestos Exposure – Mesothelioma Explained

Asbestos Exposure – Mesothelioma Explained

Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.  The Mesothelioma Bill is set to make it easier for workers to claim compensation. There are thousands of sufferers in the UK who (along with their dependants) will be entitled to compensation from a £350 million fund in the next decade or so.  Those eligible will include employees diagnosed after 25 July, 2012 who are unable to sue former employers who have gone out of business.

Mesothelioma is most common in those who worked in industries with heavy exposure to asbestos up the 1980’s.  These include employees in the engineering, shipbuilding and power generation industries.

Mesothelioma is a fatal disease and the average survival rate after diagnosis is only about 9 months.  Some 2,400 people die of the disease every year with those numbers predicted to increase over the next 30 years or so (with an estimated death toll between 56,000 and 63,000).  The speed at which this insidious disease takes hold means that many sufferers who sue for damages die before their cases are even heard.  This is considered a major injustice and the new fund has been established in order to address this situation.

The Mesothelioma Bill has already been debated in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.  It is currently in the Consideration of Amendments phase after which it should be put forward for Royal Assent.

Mesothelioma symptoms vary depending on whether the disease is in the pleura (the membrane in the pleural cavity) or peritoneum (the membrane in the abdominal cavity).  Pleural mesothelioma symptoms may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • heavy sweating (particularly at night)
  • heavy and dull chest pain
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • a persistent cough

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • swollen abdomen
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • nausea
  • changes to the bowel pattern (such as diarrhoea or constipation)

Anybody with a history of asbestos exposure will need to see their GP for an examination.  The GP may arrange for blood tests and x-rays in order to test for mesothelioma.  Depending on the test results, they may then be referred to hospital for further tests and specialist advice and treatment.  Test results may take from a few days to a couple of weeks to be returned, a time which can be particularly stressful.

The hospital should be able to refer you to an organisation that will be able to provide support during this difficult time.  The Mesothelioma UK organisation has been set up in order to provide a national resource centre providing specialist information, support and an improved care and treatment package for sufferers in the UK.  They can be contacted through their free phone helpline on 0800 169 2409 or via the website at – this is a useful first contact point if you have any worries concerning asbestos related mesothelioma.