Publication of the National Mesothelioma Framework

People with a chest cancer related to exposure to asbestos will receive a boost today, as a new framework for improving their care is launched by Britain's Health Minister Rosie Winterton.

Marking Action Mesothelioma Day, Rosie Winterton will 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.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said:

"Mesothelioma can be a challenging condition for the NHS to diagnose and manage, especially as the number of cases varies around the country so that, in some areas, it is a rare condition.

"It is important that we work to improve quality of care to a uniformly high level across the country. With a potential peak of cases less than ten years away, we have a window of opportunity now to ensure that the NHS has done all it can to provide a high quality service for all mesothelioma patients.

"I am therefore very pleased to be launching the National Mesothelioma Framework today."

Dame Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation said:

"We welcome this initiative by the Department of Health to improve services for people with the asbestos-caused cancer mesothelioma. The Action Mesothelioma Charter calls for the disease to be made a national priority. This initiative will help to ensure that people with this cruel disease now have a better chance of receiving the best treatment and care."

Chris Knighton of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund said:

"Action Mesothelioma Day gives a much needed opportunity to promote a greater awareness into the dangers of asbestos - past, present and future. The UK faces an epidemic of mesothelioma, yet awareness of the hazard of asbestos is still dangerously low.

"Mesothelioma is a cruel disease with, as yet, no cure and it is vital that people understand that they still have to be vigilant about asbestos. Anyone who comes into contact with it could be at risk."

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

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. and


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