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- pleural plaques
- pleural thickening
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, known as the pleural membrane.
There are three different types of mesothelioma:
- Epithelioid mesothelioma accounts for 50 to 70 percent of all diagnoses. It grows more slowly than others, and so may respond better to treatments.
- Sarcomatoid mesothelioma accounts for around 15 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses. It is the least common type and tends to progress more quickly than other forms of the disease.
- Biphasic mesothelioma is a rarer form of the disease and while it grows more slowly than sarcomatoid mesothelioma, it is more aggressive than epithelioid mesothelioma.
Who is at risk of mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is almost always caused by being exposed to asbestos. This mineral is made up of microscopic fibres and used to be widely used in the construction, plumbing, shipbuilding, power station, railway engineering, painting and decorating industries.
These tiny fibres can easily get in the lungs and cause damage over time. Mesothelioma typically takes more than 20 years after exposure to asbestos to become apparent.
The use of asbestos was completely banned in 1999, so the risk of exposure is now much lower, but asbestos can still be found in many older buildings, including pipe and boiler lagging and artex plastering. You should never disturb asbestos if you find it in a building.
More than 2,600 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Because it takes a long time for symptoms to develop, the majority of people who are diagnosed are between 60 and 80 years old. Men are affected more commonly than women, because they are more likely to have worked in an industry where asbestos was used in the past.
What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
The NHS website lists the following symptoms:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- a high temperature (fever) and sweating, particularly at night
- a persistent cough
- loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
- clubbed (swollen) fingertips.
How is mesothelioma diagnosed?
If you have any of the signs or symptoms which suggest you might have mesothelioma, your GP will ask you about your medical history and possible risk factors, such as where you have worked in the past, to consider your likely exposure to asbestos.
A physical examination (with a stethoscope for example) can provide your GP with information about the possible signs of mesothelioma.
To confirm a diagnosis, various tests have to be done. These are:
- Chest/abdomen X-ray
- CT (computerised tomography) scan – where a number of X-rays are taken which are designed to give a detailed image of the inside of your body;
- Biopsy – this is where fluid which may have built up around the lungs is removed by using a needle inserted through the skin. The fluid is then tested for abnormal cells.
- Thoracoscopy or laparoscopy. The doctor uses a long, thin camera which is inserted through a small cut under sedation or anaesthetic, so that the doctor can look inside the chest or abdomen.
Treatment for Mesothelioma
The best treatment for mesothelioma depends on how far the cancer has spread and your health in general.
Treatment tends to focus on controlling the symptoms and prolonging life for as long as possible, particularly where the diagnosis has been made at a late stage in the disease’ development.
- Chemotherapy. This is used to help to shrink the cancer.
- Radiotherapy. High-energy radiation is used to kill the cancer cells. It can also be used to slow down the rate at which the cancer develops, and to keep it under control.
- Surgery. Removal of the cancerous area can be done if the mesothelioma is detected at an early stage.
Types of doctors who may treat you
It can be very confusing when you have to deal with a medical team, which often happens when mesothelioma is diagnosed. What do the different medics do?
This list is not comprehensive, but identifies the main types of doctor you may meet during your treatment
- Thoracic surgeons: a doctor who performs a wide range of surgery including surgery for lung cancer, tumours and cysts;
- Surgical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with surgery
- Clinical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
- Medical oncologist: a doctor who diagnoses, assesses, treats and manages patients with cancers, using treatments such as chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, biological therapies such as antibodies, small molecules and immunotherapy.
If you are already on our website, chances are, you may be thinking about making a claim for compensation.
If you were exposed to asbestos at work, then it may be possible to sue your former employer who exposed you, even if it was many years ago. There are still time limits, and you should make sure you seek legal advice as soon as possible. You must make sure that your solicitor has started your claim well within three years of the date you were first diagnosed.
Make sure that you use a specialist lawyer – use the search facility on this page.
Who can claim compensation for mesothelioma?
If you have been negligently exposed to asbestos either at work, or because you washed work clothing for people who were exposed to asbestos dust or you were exposed to it since 1987 in the armed forces, then you may be able to claim compensation.
What can I claim for?
Compensation can help you to pay for the additional expenses you may incur as a result of your illness. These can include:
Cost of specialist private medical treatment - such as immunotherapy;
Loss of earnings - if you were working at the time of your diagnosis and had to stop work. You can also claim for earnings you will lose in the future;
Traveling expenses - to medical appointments, for example;
Costs of care and nursing - this can include both the notional cost of family members or friends who are caring for you, or the cost of paying for professional nursing services in your home;
- Equipment - the NHS or local authority will provide some equipment for you to use, but you may need other things which are not available from them. This can include stairlifts, a specialist chair, other adaptations to your house (such as additional rails or ramps) and protective bedding.
What if my former employer has gone out of business?
Since 1972, it has been compulsory for businesses to be insured for injuries they may cause to their employees. Many businesses also had insurance before that date, too. Just because your former employee has gone out of business, this may not stop your claim: your solicitor may be able to trace the business’ insurers who can cover the claim.
Is there a time limit for making a mesothelioma claim?
Yes, for compensation claims, even though you may have been exposed to asbestos at work many years ago, time limits still apply. You must make sure that your solicitor has started your claim well within three years of the date you were first diagnosed.
There are shorter time limits for applying for benefits. See below
Do I need to get hold of my medical records?
Your solicitor making the claim for compensation will obtain your records for you. You will be asked to sign a consent form, which will allow the hospital and your GP to send copies of your medical records to the law firm.
Other financial help
If you have mesothelioma there are also some welfare benefits available. These include:
- Industrial injuries disablement benefit (IIDB) - This benefit is available for people who can show that they were exposed to asbestos while at work. Both employees and apprentices who have been exposed can apply, but those who were self-employed at the time they were exposed to asbestos cannot.
- Pneumoconiosis Etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 lump sum payment - This is available to some people who have been granted industrial injuries disablement benefit. There are strict rules on who can apply and you must do so within 12 months of being granted industrial injuries disablement benefit. The employer who exposed you to asbestos must either no longer exist or the exposure that caused your mesothelioma happened over 20 years ago.
- Diffuse mesothelioma payments - there are two schemes:
The ‘2008 scheme’ - This is a one-off payment which is designed for people who exposed to asbestos but not while they were at work. This can include people who lived near to a factory which used asbestos, those who washed the overalls for people worked with asbestos or those who were self-employed at the time that they were exposed.
The amount paid depends on how old you were when mesothelioma was diagnosed. The table of payments is on the government website here: https://www.gov.uk/diffuse-mesothelioma-payment/what-youll-get
The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) - This scheme is designed for those who were exposed to asbestos at work who were first diagnosed on or after 25 July 2012. Applicants must have taken steps to trace their former employer’s insurer, and failed to do so before a claim can be paid out of the scheme.
If the mesothelioma sufferer has passed away, then the scheme can also make payments to their eligible dependants. (The sufferer’s spouse or children – not both, or their reputed spouse or other relative, subject to various restrictions).
It is very important that you consult a solicitor before making a claim under this scheme because timing is important, and may affect other benefit payments.
The website for the firm which administers the scheme can be found here: https://www.mesoscheme.org.uk
Personal Independent Payment (PIP), Attendance Allowance (AA) and Carers’ Allowance (CA) - While these two benefits are not specifically for mesothelioma sufferers and their carers, they are designed for people with mobility and care needs.
- PIP: The amount you get for depends on how your condition affects you, not the condition itself. It helps with the extra costs of disability or long-term health conditions for people aged 16 to 64. As it is not means tested, it does not matter how much you earn, or whether you have savings or capital.
- AA: Attendance allowance is a tax-free benefit paid to people aged over 65 who need help to look after themselves because of physical or mental disability. Even if you do not receive help from a carer you can still claim. Again, this is not means-tested, so you can get it, regardless of how much you earn or have saved
- CA: If you have someone who regularly gives you at least 35 hours care in your own home, then that person can make a claim for Carer’s Allowance. This benefit can be paid either weekly or monthly to your carer. It forms part of the carer’s taxable income.
Complementary mesothelioma care
Many people who suffer from mesothelioma will decide that they should boost their overall health and immune system while they undergo medical treatment. These types of treatments do no replace modern medicine. Here are some of the things that people consider:
- Naturopathy and Aromatherapy
- Gentle exercise
Healthy nutrition during treatment
You can be proactive about your nutritional during treatment to make you feel better and to help you cope with some of the side effects.
- Dehydration or dry mouth: Eat foods which have a high water content such as fruits, broth-based soups or milkshakes. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they both cause dehydration. Increase your fluid intake generally.
- Constipation: Eat foods which contain soluble fibre, such as wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats; vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn; fruit such as berries, pears, melon and oranges. Probiotic yogurts may also be helpful.
- Fatigue and loss of appetite: Increasing your calorie intake generally will help fight fatigue, but if you don’t feel like eating, what should you do? Eat smaller meals more regularly and choose the foods that you enjoy. High-calorie snacks such as nuts and cheese, and nutritional drinks such as smoothies or milkshakes are a good idea.
- Nausea: keep your food plain while it lasts: white toast, rice, mashed potato, steamed fish or chicken.
- Diarrhoea: drink plenty of fluids and consider adding a salt replacement sachet if you feel up to it.