The number of mesothelioma victims able to survive for one year after diagnosis has risen slightly, according to a report published at the end of 2016.

It’s welcoming news. The key part of any mesothelioma claim is tracing a former employer and /or insurer, and obtaining their admission of liability. In many cases, a defendant will be prepared to quickly settle out of court. The aim of an asbestosis lawyer is always to try and secure mesothelioma compensation within the time remaining to the victim. An interim award will also help to pay for special therapies and palliative treatments to alleviate the suffering of a victim with fatal cancer of the lung linings.

However, a closer look at the findings of the National Lung Cancer Audit Pleural Mesothelioma Report 2016 shows that the gains were disappointingly modest.

Victims still losing their lives in less than one year

The report – which was commissioned by the Royal College of Physicians in collaboration with Mesothelioma UK – also found that “in some areas”, victims were still losing their lives to the incurable cancer in less than one year. Figures recently released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the historical “asbestos blackspots” of north east England still have amongst the highest mortality rates for the disease.

Despite worldwide clinical research and advances in knowledge, mesothelioma remains stubbornly resistant to a permanent cure. Following a confirmed diagnosis, a mesothelioma victim may expect to be given a prognosis of between 4 to 12 months. In some cases, the time remaining may be even less.

The Audit Report – for 2014 – found that one year survival rates had increased from 40 per cent to 43 per cent between 2008 and 2012. However, the slight improvement may be the result of a corresponding increase in anti-cancer treatments and the use of palliative chemotherapy since the previous audit, was also up by 3 per cent, from 34 to nearly 37 per cent. Although use of radiotherapy appears to have reduced from 29 per cent to nearly 17 per cent of patients, the number of procedures more than doubled from 2.3 per cent to 5.2 per cent.

The audit figures can only underline the message that as a result of Britain’s widespread use of asbestos throughout much of the 20th Century, the lives of so many innocent victims continue to be tragically cut short. Never more so than in the traditional industrial heartlands.

Mesothelioma mortality rates still riding higher in north east

It still makes shocking reading to find that nearly twenty years after white asbestos imports were stopped, and more than thirty years following the ban on brown and blue asbestos, mesothelioma mortality rates in areas of the north east are still riding higher than anywhere else in the country.

Latest ONS figures show that Stockton loses the highest number of lives to the fatal malignancy – nearly 9 in every 100,000 people. Darlington has almost double the national average of 4.51 – the 13th highest death rate from the disease, with nearly 8 in every 100,000 people. Other high rates can be found in Middlesbrough. Redcar and Cleveland (nearly 7 in 100,000), and County Durham (more than 4 in every 100,000).

In these and other asbestos ‘blackspots’, such as Durham, West Auckland, Bolton, Rochdale, Widnes and Trafford Park, asbestos was used to manufacture cement, textiles, friction, insulation and soundproofing materials.

Finding an early resolution is more urgent than ever

The increasing government recognition of the need to offer a fast track solution for around the 3,500 mesothelioma victims who every year are unable to trace their original employer or insurer saw the introduction of The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) in July 2014. However, the restrictions to eligibility and initial payment amounts may very well have contributed to the findings of the last annual review, which shows that in 2015/2016 there was a drop of 8 per cent fall in applicants, from 405 to 375.

As we reach the end of the second decade of the 21st Century, finding an early resolution to a mesothelioma claim is more urgent than ever. In many cases, to show an employers neglect of their duty of care, victims and their dependants will urgently call upon former workplace colleagues to give their account of conditions where it is believed exposure to asbestos occurred.

More than 2,500 UK deaths from mesothelioma cancer are predicted every year until 2020 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) before numbers may begin to decline. However, on 2009 report strongly suggest that the number of deaths are severely underestimated and could exceed 2,800 every year by 2025, at least.