What chance of compensation for thousands with asbestos-related lung cancer from work?
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium
, the lining of the cavity that encases the heart and lungs. It is very strongly linked to asbestos exposure
However it is less well known that asbestos is also strongly implicated in other cancers including lung cancer
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), some 2,000 people die every year from asbestos-related lung cancer
. This figure is roughly equal to that of fatalities due to mesothelioma: another aggressive, asbestos-related cancer of the lung.
However, despite the virulence of lung cancer and its proven link to the inhalation of asbestos fibres
, it remains relatively rare for someone diagnosed with lung cancer to seek legal advice, in comparison with those diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Emma Costin, Head of Industrial Disease at Simpson Millar comments
"It is relatively uncommon as far as the general public are concerned to make the link between a diagnosis of lung cancer and a history of working with asbestos, perhaps because of the more widely-accepted connection between lung cancer and smoking cigarettes
. However it is also far less common in cases of lung cancer where a lawyer is consulted to see a full occupational history
taken in the medical notes, it is much more usual to see the smoking history well documented."
"Our message to the general public and to clinicians is the same, where there is lung cancer and occupational history of working with asbestos, irrespective of smoking history, a detailed occupational history in the notes is likely to prove invaluable
and the patient would be well advised to seek an independent legal opinion."
The HSE says that the total of lung cancer fatalities that are definitely asbestos-related
is not something that can be accurately known,
Emma says "at least in part this is because it is a matter of medical opinion on a case by case basis
to determine whether the disease was probably contracted due to asbestos exposure or due to smoking, or due to a combination of the two or by neither, these are questions that only really come up in the context of a legal claim
and the best that statisticians can do is provide an estimate."
What is known is that asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer as well as mesothelioma. Lung cancer due to asbestos inhalation can remain latent for up to 4 decades
, but once detected it may be operable.
Many of its sufferers will never have smoked, and the fact that a victim might have once worked with asbestos, sometimes very extensively in the past, can be missed or forgotten at the traumatic time of diagnosis
often many years later.