Mesothelioma? What is it and what does it cost the NHS annually?
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Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the Mesothelium, a thin membrane that can be found in either the abdomen, where it is known as the peritoneum, or in part of the inner chest wall, which is known as the pleural. There are therefore two types of Mesothelioma dependant on where the cancer is, peritoneal Mesothelioma which is in the abdomen and, the far more common, pleural Mesothelioma that is in the chest.
Exposure to asbestos is responsible for up to 9 out of 10 Mesothelioma cases.
When the disease develops after exposure to asbestos, the asbestos fibers have usually been breathed in or swallowed. Unfortunately the human body cannot process and get rid of these fibers very easily. With continued exposure to asbestos within the workplace, whilst renovating an old building, in auto repair shops, shipyards and public buildings, Mesothelioma can gradually develop. This is because over time these fibers can cause damaging biological changes that result in genetic damage, scarring and inflammation. Once these fibres have begun causing biologically damage the patient could develop Mesothelioma within 20-50 years.
As the condition takes so long to develop towards a life threatening stage, many sufferers are not aware they have Mesothelioma until the condition has become quite aggravated. Few people will actually recognise the early symptoms if they are in fact having any at all and the condition will usually go unnoticed for a number of years. The only symptoms which are felt in the early stages are usually confined to fatigue and a dull pain around the tumour. This undoubtedly causes late diagnosis and mis-diagnosis of the condition.
Late stage symptoms of malignant Mesothelioma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Chronic pain around the tumour
- Bowel obstruction
- Fluid build up around the lungs
Initial stages of a diagnosis for Mesothelioma may include a basic chest X-ray followed by a more detailed imaging scan such as a PET scan, CT scan or MRI. Most cases of Mesothelioma are confirmed through a biopsy. For this procedure tissue is removed to confirm the presence of Mesothelioma cells.
If Mesothelioma is diagnosed then patients can usually claim asbestos compensation.
As yet, no patient has been cured of the disease even after treatment, however there are treatment options available all of which are incredibly expensive including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Each patient’s treatments costs can also vary greatly depending on their diagnosis.
The price of mesothelioma
According to asbestos.com the average cost of Mesothelioma surgery is roughly $39.891, although due to the rarity of the condition it’s difficult to determine an exact price. Chemotherapy costs were also thought to vary and some estimates were as high as $30,000 for an eight week period. This estimate was again centered on costs for cancer patients as Mesothelioma treatment varies so greatly from patient to patient. The cost of radiation was calculated in a similar way and was thought to costs $2,000 a month.
Back in December, it was reported that the Welsh Assembly were looking to pass a Bill that would see insurers and businesses the losses of the NHS due to asbestos related diseases. They estimated that £2 million was being spent each year by the NHS just in Wales for treating asbestos and mesothelioma patients.
As well as the costs of treatment, there are also greater costs involved in the treatment of Mesothelioma. Patients will find that they become dependent on full time care as well as assistance with getting to and from medical appointments. Coupled with the fact they can no longer work this becomes an extremely costly situation.