Mesothelioma Care in the UK 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



As we approach the UK’s annual Action Mesothelioma Day (July 6, 2018),1 a twenty-four page report has been issued by the Royal College of Physicians and Mesothelioma UK which provides evidence of progress being made in the care for patients suffering from mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The new publication, which drew on detailed data from 7,192 individuals with mesothelioma, revealed that during the period 2014-2016 more mesothelioma patients in England and Wales received active treatment – i.e. anti-cancer treatment with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or a combination of the three. 2 This is a huge turnaround from the situation which prevailed during the late 20th and early 21st century. As recently as 2003, medical specialists reported that:

  • most mesothelioma patients never saw a mesothelioma specialist doctor;
  • mesothelioma patients were frequently told: “there’s nothing we can do for you”;
  • few patients were offered chemotherapy even though protocols existed which could relieve symptoms and prolong life.3

Other significant findings reported in the National Mesothelioma Audit 2018 included:

  • pathological confirmation of the diagnosis was achieved in 88% of cases, only just short of the 90% audit standard;
  • access to a specialist cancer nurse remained variable across England;
  • the cases of 81% of patients were discussed at lung multi-disciplinary team meetings – short of the 95% target but an improvement on previous years;
  • specialist services for peritoneal mesothelioma patients began emerging – peritoneal mesotheliomas, which constituted only 4% of mesothelioma cases, were included for the first time in this report.

Amongst the report’s recommendations were suggestions to: improve the quality of data collection, conduct surgical survival audits, provide better information to guide patients’ treatment decisions, ensure patient referrals to clinical trials outside their areas.

Welcoming the increased proportion of patients who received chemotherapy during the audit period, Professor Mick Peake, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Mesothelioma UK, expressed reservations regarding the wide variations existing between cancer alliances. “It is clear,” he said “that many lung cancer MDTs are managing very small numbers of cases each year. I hope that those responsible for providing and commissioning the services for patients suffering from mesothelioma will look at this report and seriously consider what implications it has for their own responsibilities for providing high quality care for all.” Despite the progress being made and the increased number of patients receiving active treatment for mesothelioma patients only 7% of patients survived for three years post-diagnosis. It is clear that much remains to be done.

June 22, 2018


1 Action Mesothelioma Day.

2 National Mesothelioma Audit report 2018 (for the audit period 2014–16). June 21, 2018.

3 Kazan-Allen L. Reporting on 20 Years of Asbestos Activism. British Asbestos Newsletter. Issue 78, Spring 2010.



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