British Army Veteran Succumbs to Mesothelioma

Portsmouth, UK—A Portsmouth man who served in the British Army during World War II has died from the deadly asbestos cancer known as mesothelioma.

Frederick Blewden was 84 when he died from the disease, which he contracted while working as a skilled motor mechanic as part of the allied forces’ invasion of Germany. During the fulfillment of those duties, he came into close contact with asbestos, which was used in clutches, insulation and brake pads in the Army vehicles.

Blewden’s wife, Ursula, said that the couple was just days away from their diamond wedding anniversary when Blewden attempted to get out of his bed unaided, but collapsed, unable to support his own weight. He had lost over half his body weight from the cancer.

The Portsmouth area has seen a number of deaths from malignant mesothelioma – 528 in the years between 1981 and 2000. Many of those deaths were people who worked at the Portsmouth Dockyard.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive, albeit rare, form of cancer that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. It may remain latent within the body for up to 50 years, and is difficult to diagnose because of its symptoms’ similarities to the symptoms of other, more common respiratory conditions.

The disease is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Although once commonly used as an insulating material, because of its high resistance to flame and heat, it has fallen out of favor and is largely banned in most developed nations, due to its carcinogenic nature.

Although mesothelioma can be treated with surgery if it is caught early enough, most cases are not diagnosed until they have reached the later, more advanced stages, at which point palliative care is the most common route. Mesothelioma patients have a life expectancy of only 18 months on average after diagnosis.