A physician who treated the British Royal Family for over 15 years has died from a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.
Dr. Ian Keith Campbell was a general practitioner who worked at the Heacham Group Practice in Norfolk, England for over 30 years, and who served as the Apothecary to the Royal Household at Sandringham. It is unclear how he may have developed mesothelioma, which is a disease most commonly associated with asbestos.
Exposure to this fibrous mineral material usually takes place in an industrial environment, such as a factory, construction site or shipyard, since it was frequently used an insulating and fireproofing component of machinery, electrical wiring or building materials. Yet secondhand and environmental exposure to asbestos are also possible, and there have been cases in which people have become ill from asbestos in their school, home or other buildings.
Although the likelihood of developing mesothelioma or another asbestos disease increases with repeated or prolonged asbestos contact, the truth is that there is no safe level of exposure to the mineral. Even one instance of inhaling it can lead to a disease down the road.
Mesothelioma has a long latency period, which means that it may not become symptomatic, and therefore be diagnosed, until years after the contact with asbestos took place. It’s often misdiagnosed as well, since its symptoms can closely resemble those of other respiratory issues. Because of these two factors, mesothelioma is usually not discovered until it has reached the later stage of the disease, when treatment is less effective or not viable at all.
Most patients die within a few months of being diagnosed. Dr. Campbell died on Christmas Eve 2009, at age 64. His family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Bart’s Mesothelioma Research Fund, which is located at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. It is one of the U.K.’s largest outpatient clinics for mesothelioma patients, and it also conducts clinical trials and laboratory research into the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.