May 18 2017

Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening are not easy to diagnose.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure to mesothelioma but there are treatments available to help control and relieve the symptoms associated with the illness.

Symptoms which are synonymous with Mesothelioma include:

Mesothelioma in the lining of the lungs

  • 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

Mesothelioma in the lining of the tummy

  • tummy pain or swelling
  • feeling or being sick
  • loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • diarrhoea or constipation

Source: NHS – Mesothelioma

Developing an asbestos-related disease, like Mesothelioma

It takes between 10 and 50 years to develop an asbestos disease following exposer to airborne fibres. After such a long time many people do not remember or think to consider that asbestos may be the cause of their suffering.

Also, the symptoms tend to gradually develop and people dismiss increasing breathlessness and general tiredness as the usual wear and tear of aging.

So, how can you tell if your symptoms are asbestos related?

What did they do for a job?

Arguably the best indication of whether a person could have an asbestos disease is their work history or the work history of close family members. Anyone who has trouble breathing as they get older should consider their occupational history. What did they do for a job? Where did they work? Who did they come into contact with?

The six questions and information contained in the infographic below could help establish whether someone has an asbestos-related disease. And that could make a huge difference to their quality of life when it comes to their care and the future of their loved-ones.

Jan Garvey, from The National Asbestos Helpline, says: “Asbestos-related diseases take decades to develop, which can deny people the justice and support they deserve. After such a long time it can be difficult for people and medical professionals to make the connection between past exposure to asbestos and their lung condition. We’re hoping that our six questions and infographic help jog the memory and highlight asbestos awareness.”

The National Asbestos Helpline is a free helpline for anyone affected by asbestos. The specialist team has provided help and support to asbestos victims and their families for more than a decade. They received more than 4,000 calls and year and help with practical advice, benefits, civil claims and campaigns on behalf of asbestos victims.

Infographic showing the symptoms of asbestos exposure - mesothelioma

Asbestos is just one reason why an occupation history is a vital part of an initial respiratory assessment

Did you know?

  • Asbestos is the biggest work place killer in the UK
  • Asbestos causes more deaths a year than road traffic accidents
  • 53,000 people will die from asbestos related mesothelioma between 2013 and 2037 (Department of Work & Pensions)

Could my patient be an asbestos victim?

If your patient has a lung condition the answer to the next six questions could make all the difference to their care and family’s future.

What are your patient’s symptoms?

Unexplained breathlessness, chest pains and/or a persistent cough can be an indication of past asbestos exposure.

What is the age of your patient?

An asbestos disease can take 10-50 years to manifest symptoms. It is more likely that a person is over 55-years old has been exposed to asbestos.

What is your patient’s work history?

Tradesmen and manual workers are at higher risk of having been exposed to asbestos.

Did a member of their family work with or near to asbestos?

There are cases where family members have been exposed to asbestos dust by washing work clothes or simply by contact with contaminated clothes.

What is your patient’s suspected diagnosis?

Lung cancer and pulmonary fibrosis can also be caused by exposure to asbestos. Inhaling tobacco and asbestos dust multiplies the risk of lung cancer.

How can you help?

  • Make sure your patient is aware their condition is asbestos-related
  • Advise your patient that help and support is available
  • It is quite often advice from medical professionals that prompts a patient to seek help
  • Benefits and compensation available to people with an asbestos-related lung disease, and their family, can be life-changing and are often used for vital home improvements such as stair-lifts, wet room and mobility aids

What next?

It is vital to tell them to act quickly and check their legal rights. Your patient has less than 3 years to make an industrial disease claim from the date they are diagnosed. Cases can be complicated and time consuming. If left too late (less than 6 to 12 months before the 3-year deadline) it can be difficult for a solicitor to build a case in time. Medical evidence to establish that the patient is diagnosed with an asbestos disease is important. A chest X-ray, CT scan, lung function test or biopsy can help to establish an asbestos condition but may not always be conclusive. If you patient dies and an asbestos disease is suspected, it must be reported to the coroner. The decision for an autopsy will lie with the coroner. An autopsy can be very upsetting for the family and it is wise for all to be prepared for this possibility.

Just because you have asbestos in your home, it doesn’t mean that you are of an immediate risk to Mesothelioma, and it’s perfectly safe to live and work around asbestos, providing that the material is in an undamaged and managed state.

There is plenty of support available for those diagnosed with Mesothelioma, or with friends or family who are, see the below websites for more information:

If you have any concerns or queries about asbestos in your home or business, then please get in touch with us on 0115 932 6521, via our enquiry form or send us an email on