Campaign for specialist nurses to treat growing asbestos cancer

Julie Roberts is launching a campaign to highlight mesothelioma.
Julie Roberts is launching a campaign to highlight mesothelioma.
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THE daughter of an Edinburgh joiner who died from an asbestos-related lung cancer is set to launch a campaign demanding the Scottish Government appoint specialist nurses to deal with the growing problem of mesothelioma.

Julie Roberts has already won agreement from Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to host a round table meeting of medical experts, academics and campaigners, to look at new ways of raising awareness about the deadly disease.

But she hopes that growing pressure will not only result in mesothelioma being included in the government’s cancer strategy but the creation of three new specialist nurse posts.

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

Julie, whose dad Gordon and uncle Jim Hamilton both died of the disease last year, 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.”

She adds: “Today is Mesothelioma Awareness Day so it’s great to be told that Kezia Dugdale is able to bring specialists together to discuss the issue, especially as I feel I’ve been brushed aside by the government.”

In a written response on the issue Scottish health minister Shona Robison has said that the government’s cancer strategy and Get Checked campaign is focused on raising awareness and early detection of all cancers and that it is funding more support of GPs to support earlier investigation of patients with suspected cancer, including mesothelioma.

But Julie added: “I understand there are competing demands for health expenditure, but this is a simple public awareness raising issue. I know the government is doing work to educate GPs in this area which is to be welcomed, but the real education needs to be among those who are directly affected.

“And without doubt the numbers with mesothelioma will rise.”

Scotland’s sole specialist mesothelioma nurse is funded by the charity Mesothelioma UK. But while statistics show that 2500 people die of the disease every year, it is predicted that numbers will rise sharply as the disease makes itself apparent in the thousands of men who worked with asbestos in manufacturing or the building trade during from the 1970s until 1999 when its use was banned.

A recent Cancer Research UK study also showed that an estimated one in 17 of British men born in the 1940s and employed in carpentry for more than ten years before the age of 30 would go on to develop mesothelioma.