How do provide care and guidance to patients who have no chance of a cure, and who are statistically likely to have little more than months to live?
Every mesothelioma patient should have someone to help guide them after diagnosis. This is usually the job of a clinical nurse specialist.
These unsung heroes of the NHS fulfil the critical role of helping patients understand the condition and treatment options, while offering support to family members and carers.
Patients with any type of cancer will ask nurses difficult questions:
“What is the next step for treatment?”
“Are there any new trials?”
“What are the chances that new treatments or even a cure will be found?”
When it comes to mesothelioma, the answers to these questions are often devastating to the patient and their family.
Mesothelioma has a very poor prognosis – most patients will die within months of their diagnosis and fewer than one in 10 will survive three years.
Nurses are faced with the task of providing care and guidance to patients who have no chance of a cure, and who are statistically likely to have little more than months to live. With no new treatments and a lack of investment in research to provide hope, nurses’ role in supporting the best quality of life possible for mesothelioma patients is made even harder.
“More than 60,000 people will die from this disease over the next 30 years”
Research into mesothelioma is severely underfunded despite the fact that it kills 2,500 people every year, on a par with other cancers such as myeloma. We have the highest mesothelioma mortality rate in the world. New data released a few months ago shows a steady increase in the number of people dying of mesothelioma every year in the UK and it is estimated that more than 60,000 people will die from this disease over the next 30 years.
Finding new and effective treatments is absolutely crucial if we are to save the thousands of people who are at risk of developing mesothelioma, and equip those looking after patients with the best tools with which to support patients and their families.
But, as everyone reading this will be sick of hearing, finances – particularly for healthcare – are still tight and will get tighter. Which begs the question: how do we do this?
The British Lung Foundation (BLF) is campaigning to fundamentally transform mesothelioma research funding. Every year insurance companies pay out millions of pounds in compensation to people with mesothelioma who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace.
“Saving lives could potentially save the insurance companies millions”
A tiny fraction of the estimated £11bn that insurance companies are expected to pay out in compensation awards in the future – as low as 0.05% every year - could help create a sustainable mesothelioma research fund without costing the tax-payer a penny.
It could even save insurers money - if mesothelioma patients live longer and better lives as a result of treatments found through research, the amount of compensation the industry would have to pay out in the long-term could be significantly reduced.
Saving lives could potentially save the insurance companies millions.
So what are we waiting for?
To us, the solution is clear. What would be mere pennies to insurance companies could help transform the way we look after mesothelioma patients in the coming decades. That is why we are asking the government and insurance companies to work together to make this become a reality.
You can help us achieve this by writing to your MP urging them to support our campaign. Please visit our website and find out how to join the campaign today.
Dr Penny Woods is Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation