Life expectancy after a confirmed mesothelioma diagnosis is often between 2 – 12 months, which always comes as a devastating shock to the victim and their family. The distress is all the more unbearable if, as is often reported, the victim led an active life until the first asbestosis symptoms appeared, and their health quickly deteriorated.

In one recent tragic case, a carpenter aged just 63 lost his life to the deadly cancer only five months after being diagnosed with a less common type of mesothelioma. Historically, around three quarters of male victims of industrial occupational exposure to asbestos are aged 75 and above.

Different types of mesothelioma also play their part

The time left is determined by a variety of factors. Where the victim is in their 80s or 90s, or the cancer has reached an advanced stage, the prognosis can be unfortunately, less than 2 months. Different types of mesothelioma also play their part in determining life-expectancy.

A victim, their spouse or family dependents will naturally want to seek answers as to how and why exposure to asbestos occurred, or was not prevented at a former workplace. If a mesothelioma claim is triggered, all parties need to see a positive outcome as quickly as possible – usually the courts award a lump sump interim payment – to help with providing crucial medical care, treatments and equipment aids. More than anything else, a victim wants to see his family left financially secure.

Cell type is the most aggressive

The former carpenter had been diagnosed with the less typical ‘sarcomatoid’ mesothelioma cell type. Diagnosed in around 1 in 10 patients, this cell type is the most aggressive and more often associated with peritoneal (stomach) mesothelioma than with pleural (lung) mesothelioma. The randomly organised cells tend to grow and spread the fastest and, as a result, are the most difficult to treat. Sarcomatoid cell type cancer can also be difficult to positively diagnose at the outset because the tumours often resemble both benign and other malignant conditions.

A further complication is in identifying the early signs of the condition. Recognising that typical symptoms such as breathlessness, coughing or a tight chest may not be caused by a common respiratory complaint has often been a difficulty for victims. This is not unusual as the disease can take 30 – 40 years, on average, to develop. However, in the case of a sarcomatoid mesothelioma, there is also a difference between symptoms relating to the lung linings or the stomach. While symptoms of the lung linings can similarly include shortness of breath, weight loss and weakness. in sarcomatoid mesothelioma of the stomach, common symptoms can be pain, anorexia, nausea and feeling an abdominal “fullness”.

7 in 10 of all diagnosed mesothelioma

The most common sub-type – epithelioid mesothelioma – accounts for as many as 7 in 10 of all diagnosed mesothelioma cases. While both mesothelioma sub-types carry a poor survival rate, the median or ‘middle’ range value for a patient diagnosed with sarcomatoid cell cancer is 6 months from diagnosis compared to 10.5 months for the epithelioid cell type, which is also more likely to respond to treatment.

Every week an average of 20 tradesmen – mostly carpenters, electricians and plumbers – continue to lose their lives to mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. Cancer Research UK and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) research finds that those men who worked as carpenters for more than ten years before they reached 30 have a one in 17 risk of contracting mesothelioma.

More than 1 in 6 employed in the building industry

Data collected from more than 600 patients with mesothelioma and 1,400 healthy respondents also reveals that men employed for more than ten years before they were 30 in other key trade occupations of plumber, electrician and decorator were at a one in 50 risk.

One recent European study into occupational exposure to asbestos analysed the medical records of more than 367,000 construction workers who participated in health examinations between 1971 and 1993. The data shows that from a total of just over 400 cases of mesothelioma, which occurred between 1972 and 2009, the incidence of mesothelioma was high among those individuals who worked with some form of asbestos-containing insulation.

The HSE suggest that between 1970 and 2050, of a total of 90,000 cases of diagnosed mesothelioma in Britain, more than 1 in 6 (15,000) will have been employed in the building industry.