Call to make Scotland ‘world leader’ in tackling rare cancer

Julie Roberts  is launching a campaign about lunch cancer which develops after working with asbestos.
Julie Roberts is launching a campaign about lunch cancer which develops after working with asbestos.
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SCOTTISH Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is set to call on the Scottish Parliament to make Scotland a “world leader” in tackling a rare cancer.

Miss Dugdale will lead a member’s debate on mesothelioma, having being inspired to act after meeting Julie Roberts from Edinburgh, who lost her father and uncle within six weeks of each other to mesothelioma.

The disease, with its link to asbestos, leaves certain demographics more susceptible – such as those in many working-class communities employed in the construction and manufacturing industry during the 1970s and 1980s.

More than 2500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK each year. But the recent Scottish Government Cancer Strategy, Beating Cancer: Ambition and Action – published earlier this year – failed to mention mesothelioma once.

She said: “I was incredibly moved when I heard Julie’s story of how her family was 
affected by this deadly disease. 
I hadn’t heard much of mesothelioma before, but the more I did hear, the more I wanted to help.

“Around 2500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK each year. Its link to asbestos means it has left certain demographics more susceptible to the disease, such as those in many working-class communities who worked in the construction and manufacturing industry during the 1970s and 1980s.

“After discovering that mesothelioma doesn’t feature once in the Scottish Government’s cancer strategy, I was delighted to be joined in the Scottish Parliament for a discussion with charities and campaigners to see if we could come up with a plan to tackle this disease that is only going to become more prevalent in the coming years.

“I’m delighted that we’ll be able to discuss this plan in the Scottish Parliament after members from all five political parties represented in the Parliament backed my motion.”

Miss Dugdale recently held a roundtable debate in Holyrood to discuss a variety of issues from raising awareness and prevention of the disease, improving and expanding research funding available, and how to provide access to expert treatment, care and support across Scotland.

Ms Roberts hopes that an “asbestos register” can be compiled, detailing which public and private buildings were built using the deadly material.

Her dad Gordon, a joiner, and uncle Jim Hamilton both died of the disease last year.

She said: “Mesothelioms is a man-made disease which needs massive awareness. The men affected – and it’s mostly working class men who built the buildings we all benefit from working and living in today – are unaware of the disease until it’s too late. “Their wives too can be affected as their husband’s clothes could bring the asbestos fibres into their homes. It’s a horrible disease which ultimately suffocates the sufferer.

“The public needs to know what to look out for; that it’s not just smoking which causes lung cancer.”