New Study Examines Prevalence of Mesothelioma in the Military

Priscilla Lynch 

September 21, 2020

New research into the incidence and experience of mesothelioma among UK armed forces has identified how care and support can be improved.

Approximately 2700 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the UK annually, and while the incidence among UK military veterans remains unknown, eight veterans per month claim war pensions due to a diagnosis of mesothelioma.

The Military Experiences of Mesothelioma Study explored the prevalence of asbestos-related cancer among British armed forces veterans to understand their experience and health/support needs, and to identify how health and legal professionals and support agencies can best meet the needs of this group.

Quantitative data were gathered to generate statistics and interviews were carried out with veterans living with mesothelioma to identify common experiences and needs.

The report identified the following key messages:

  • Assumptions regarding who has been exposed to asbestos while in the armed forces should be challenged and awareness of the risk of exposure should be raised.

  • Occupational history taking requires skill and sensitivity for patients with an armed forces background.

  • Veterans' stoic approach may disguise their physical and emotional needs.

  • Veterans require access to experts with experience of navigating the relevant health, legal and military systems.

  • It is important to recognise and understand the perspective and support needs of family members.

  • Veterans living with mesothelioma may prefer to support, and be supported by, other veterans.

  • Some veterans see inequalities between their experience of living with mesothelioma and that of civilians.

  • There is a lack of awareness regarding asbestos exposure in the armed forces and concern about ongoing asbestos risk.

​Head of Services for Mesothelioma UK, Liz Darlison, commented: “Armed forces personnel often have very different experiences and needs to civilians and it is important that the health and legal professionals supporting them are aware of this, so that they can provide the most effective help possible.”

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