UK Government Takes Action on Mesothelioma

People with a chest cancer related to exposure to asbestos will receive a boost as a new framework for improving their care is launched by UK Health Minister Rosie Winterton. Marking Action Mesothelioma Day, Rosie Winterton is going to announce the publication of the National Mesothelioma Framework at an event at Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

The new framework provides advice to the NHS on how to organise services for mesothelioma patients in order to improve quality of care, building on the structures already in place for lung cancer patients. It is hoped that the NHS will adopt the recommendations set out in the Framework to ensure better care for mesothelioma patients and their families.

The Framework is based on advice from the National Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Advisory Group and takes on board comments from a public consultation.

The Framework is available on the Department of Health website at www.dh.gov.uk

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a cancer which principally affects the lining of the lungs (pleura). However it can also affect the peritoneum (a thin lining in the abdomen). Over 90% per cent of mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs.

What causes mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma has a very strong association with exposure to asbestos. When asbestos fibres are inhaled, malignant change occurs in a proportion of individuals and cancer of the lining of the lungs can follow. It is believed that nearly all deaths caused by mesothelioma are linked to asbestos exposure.

How many mesothelioma cases are there?

There are around 1800 new cases of mesothelioma a year in England and the disease is almost always fatal. Mesothelioma is predicted to become more common over the next five to ten years as the effects of this exposure become apparent.

Where do cases of mesothelioma usually occur?

There are pockets of mesothelioma around the country usually linked to areas that had ship building, heavy engineering (which used significant amounts of asbestos) and asbestos product manufacturing industries.

However, there are also incidences in other areas as people move away from industrial areas and also because mesothelioma can occur in individuals who come into contact with asbestos in the building industry or through working in buildings where asbestos construction materials have been used and become disturbed in some way.

Men are far more likely to develop mesothelioma than women, mainly because they were more likely to have been exposed to asbestos in the course of their work. However, there can also be cases of relatives exposed to asbestos fibres on work clothes.

More information on Action Mesothelioma Day is available on the British Lung Foundation website at www.lunguk.org

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