Queenslanders warned of new wave of mesothelioma

Cancer Council has launched a new resource to help Queenslanders diagnosed with mesothelioma, with research showing new cases of the disease rising sharply since the 1980s.

Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, and less than half of all Queenslanders diagnosed with the cancer will survive more than a year after diagnosis.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said Understanding Pleural Mesothelioma was a new, vital guide for cancer patients, their family and friends.

“Every diagnosis of mesothelioma is different – but our hope is that Queenslanders gain information about diagnosis, treatment and support services through our new resource,” Ms Clift said.

“Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world – in Queensland alone, cases have risen from 17 each year in the early 1980s to 169 each year in 2012*.

“We know that asbestos miners, transport workers, builders, plumbers, electricians and mechanics may be exposed to asbestos in their workplace.

“Queenslanders who haven’t worked directly with asbestos but have been exposed to it can also develop mesothelioma, including people washing or cleaning work clothes with asbestos fibres on them or people renovating homes.

“It can take many years after being exposed to asbestos for mesothelioma to develop. This is called the latency period or latent interval, and is usually between 20 and 60 years.”

Cancer Council is concerned about a modern wave of mesothelioma among Queenslanders exposed to asbestos at work or home.

Earlier waves of the disease affected asbestos miners and workers using asbestos in industry.

“The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma are often vague and can be similar to other conditions or diseases,” Ms Clift said.

“Shortness of breath, sharp pains in the chest or a dull pain in the shoulder and upper arm, a persistent cough or a change in a coughing pattern can be symptoms of the cancer.

“If Queenslanders are concerned about their risk, especially if they think they have been exposed to asbestos, they should see their GP for advice.”

Understanding Plural Mesothelioma is available for free online at www.cancerqld.org.au, via the Information & Resources tab.

Queenslanders should visit www.worksafe.qld.gov.au for information on asbestos removal and carrying out asbestos-related work.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available via 13 11 20.

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland

Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171

*Latest figures available from the CCQ Cancer Research Centre.