Action Mesothelioma Day Corries quick guide to asbestos disease

Corries are supporting Mesothelioma UK on it’s Action Mesothelioma Day on Friday 5th July 2019.

In the latest of a series of articles we provide a quick guide about asbestos diseases. We have provided information about the different treatments and the benefits which can be offered. These can be seen here


Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that can occur in the lining of the lungs and can sometimes appear in linings of other organs such as the heart, stomach,kidney or testicles.

The number of people diagnosed with Mesothelioma is about 2700 a year. That figure is expected to rise for the next few years. It is likely that people will still be diagnosed with asbestos disease to 2040 and possibly beyond.

This condition is caused (in most cases) by exposure to asbestos dust. Cases of Mesothelioma not involving Asbestos exposure are rare.

The most noticeable symptoms of Mesothelioma are pains in the chest, ribs or back, breathlessness, general tiredness and loss of weight.

If you have some or all of these symptoms then a GP will send you for an x-ray.

Mesothelioma can be picked up on an x-ray but usually if there is cause for concern the GP will send you for a CT scan.

The CT scan provides more extensive information for your medical team to be able to establish what condition you have.

If the scan reveals potential Mesothelioma (or other asbestos disease) it is possible that the hospital will then organise a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

This procedure is generally done under general or localised anaesthetic. You may remain as an in or outpatient whilst the hospital gets the results.

You should then be told if you have Mesothelioma or not.

Treatment for mesothelioma

The treatment that will then be offered to you will depend on a number of factors including:-

  1. How advanced the condition is
  2. Your general health and fitness
  3. The location of and size of any Mesothelioma tumour
  4. Your age
  5. The wishes of you and your family

Lung Cancer

This is where a tumour is found in the lung tissue or breathing tubes themselves. About 40,000 people a year are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK. The vast majority of those with the condition will contract it because of their past smoking history.

What is less known is that asbestos can cause or contribute towards lung cancer. The precise pathway which causes a healthy lung to turn cancerous is not known.

The courts deals with this by establishing how much the exposure to asbestos contributed to the risk. A diagnosis of asbestos related lung cancer requires a large dose of asbestos such as one year of heavy exposure whilst working as a lagger or five to ten years of regular exposure from someone working in the building trades or close to those involved in asbestos lagging or other procedures.

The key legal test is if the exposure to asbestos more than doubled the risk of the tumour developing.

A diagnosis of lung cancer is usually reached in the same way as for Mesothelioma. A chest x-ray and CT scan is typically done and, if appropriate, a biopsy of the lung is taken to establish whether a tumour is present.

The range of treatments for lung cancer is generally broader. In particular the surgical options are wider in that the particular tumour may be more capable of being removed. This will be an individual decision to be reached by the patient and his treating medical team.

It is thought that about 10% of those with lung cancer per year may have the condition due to their past asbestos exposure. The knowledge of the toxic affect of asbestos in lung cancer is not always known about or explained by doctors throughout the UK.

At Corries we campaign for greater knowledge of the connection between asbestos and lug cancer.


Asbestosis is a form of pulmonary (lung) fibrosis. This means that the actual structure of the lung has been damaged or broken down by breathing in asbestos dust and fibres.

Asbestosis is fibrosis of the lungs where there is a slow growth of fibrous tissue (scar tissue) in the air cells of the lung. This is like a spiders web. The older scar tissue contracts gradually and the web spreads. The tissue which is fibrous does not operate as a lung and so gradually strangles the lung.

The symptoms of this condition include shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain and clubbing of the fingers. It is irreversible.

Clients can often confuse Asbestosis with other medical conditions. It is a separate and different condition from other asbestos diseases such as Pleural Thickening or Plaques.

Asbestosis requires a large dose of asbestos.

There is no known treatment for Asbestosis. Typically it overlaps with other conditions such as COPD, asthma and heart disease. You may be given inhalers and possibly home oxygen or other medication such as steroids.

Pleural thickening

There is a lining around each lung and which lines the ribcage. These are called the pleura. The visceral pleura lines the lung. The parietal pleura lines the rib cage.

Pleural thickening is a thickening of the pleural layers, usually the inner layers. Thickening can be caused by lower doses of asbestos than those required to cause Asbestosis.

For claim to be successful you need to show extensive pleural thickening. The term diffuse pleural thickening is used. You need to show

  1. That there is blunting of the costophrenic angles (at the bottom of the lung) and
  2. Coverage of 50% of one lung or 25% of both lung spaces

Pleural thickening is often associated with breathlessness. It may also cause pleuritic chest pain. This condition can develop causing increased disability.

Fortunately it is generally a static condition and should not get too much worse.

Pleural plaques

This is the most common type of benign pleural disease. This is the condition which Claimant’s most typically confuse with the other Asbestos diseases mentioned above.

Plaques are small areas of thickening of the pleura. More often than not they develop on the outer pleural layer.

Plaques can be caused by a lower dose of asbestos exposure than will be needed to cause Asbestosis. The latency period is usually 20 years or more. Pleural plaques do not carry any future risks themselves but are a marker of significant previous Asbestos exposure and from that a doctor can assess that there is a risk of developing other asbestos induced illnesses. These risks arise out of the earlier exposure, not the damage to the pleura done by the asbestos.


Asbestos can cause a wide variety of diseases. The number of people is affected to slowly decrease but hundreds of thousands of people will continue to suffer into the future.

For more information on asbestos disease then visit our home page or visit any of the websites referred to in our articles this week.

The need for help with asbestos disease means support for charities like Mesothelioma UK is absolutely essential. Corries are having a dress down day and bake sale and will be seeking donations. If you are in York and visit us we can collect your donation. If you would like we have Mesothelioma UK Charity products to help your day to day life.

To find out more about what Mesothelioma UK do follow this link