Room for Improvement

Caused by past exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma incidence rates have increased significantly in the UK since the early 2000s and correlate with the rise and fall of asbestos use and exposure in the 20th century. Because symptoms appear on average 40 years after exposure, this long latency period, combined with the drop in asbestos exposure after the 1960s, means mesothelioma cases are anticipated to reach their peak in 2020 before falling into decline.

With mesothelioma cases certain to continue rising over the next four years, researchers are calling for a more universal, multi‐disciplinary approach to treating this disease, which currently has something of a “no‐hope” attitude when it comes to survival and treatment.

According to a five‐year study that took place from 2008 to 2012, in which 8740 mesothelioma cases were studied in England and Wales, there is a broad variation in how doctors treat the disease, which is due to a lack of guidelines on how to manage it.

However, there were also signs of improvement, with the survival time increased from 9.2 months in 2008 to 10.5 months in 2012, which is due to more patients receiving treatments such as chemotherapy compared to previous years.

The study also revealed the overall median one‐year survival rate was 41.4 per cent, while survival of three years was only 12 per cent, with this rate varying from location to location dependant on the treatment received and the patient’s severity of mesothelioma when diagnosed. For example, in areas with few incidents of mesothelioma or a lack of knowledge on how to treat the disease, patients may not be offered more aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy or multimodal care: chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. In fact, only 286 patients received multimodal therapy during the five year study, while only 1048 patients received two of the three treatment options.

Following the study, researchers are calling for specialty centres to treat the disease and also hope to encourage organizations to be more thorough in their investigation and treatment of patients with the goal of continuing to improve survival times and remove the stigma that surrounds a mesothelioma diagnosis.

In 2016 it is anticipated that 2500 people will be diagnosed with the disease in the UK, with men five times more likely to be diagnosed than women. Although this number is expected to decrease after 2020, work must still be done to find a cure for mesothelioma and improve the survival time of patients; this will ensure mesothelioma is no longer viewed as a death sentence ‐ not only by those diagnosed, but also by the doctors that treat them.

While the health industry has its work cut out for it in improving the lives of those with mesothelioma, companies such as ARG will also be continuing to help lower the numbers of people diagnosed in the future by delivering high quality asbestos surveying and asbestos removal services to properties in the UK. As a licensed asbestos contractor that is committed to meeting new regulations and legislation, ARG is a company that can be trusted to deliver safe and efficient asbestos survey and removal solutions to customers.