Although he has recently been awarded £45,000 ($71,861 US) as compensation for his mesothelioma, a Chester man says he would happily give it all back in exchange for good health.
Anthony Martin, who worked at Chester College (now the University of Chester) for over three decades, has been diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a disease that is nearly always attributable to asbestos exposure.
Martin, 66, worked as a plasterer—one of the occupations that is most at risk for the development of this rare asbestos cancer. He recalls helping a joiner insulate the roof of the college’s theatre, and being exposed to asbestos during the course of that project. The college, he says, never notified him of the risks posed by the asbestos material, nor gave him safety gear such as a respirator.
Mesothelioma can occur up to 50 years after the exposure to asbestos, such as that experienced by Martin. Although experts agree that any amount of exposure is potentially dangerous, the hazards increase with repeated, prolonged or excessive exposure to the carcinogenic mineral material.
Characterized by shortness of breath, coughing, pain in the chest, pain or back, and undue fatigue, mesothelioma can be mistaken by patients and physicians alike for another, more common respiratory condition, such as emphysema, bronchitis or even the common cold. Because of this and because of its long latency period, it is frequently not diagnosed until it has reached end stages.
Some 3,000 new patients in the United Kingdom alone are given a diagnosis of mesothelioma each year, with similar numbers in the United States. This number is expected to increase and peak in the coming decade, with cases decreasing after that due to increased regulations on the use of asbestos.
The prognosis for mesothelioma is grim, with fewer than 10 percent of patients living two years or more after being diagnosed with this devastating disease.