The continuing legacy of the UK’s industrial past, which saw countless thousands of workers exposed to asbestos during their daily working lives, means that some 4,000 fatalities per year still occur from asbestosis or the incurable malignant cancer, mesothelioma. The number of asbestos-related deaths expected amongst males is estimated to rise above 2,000 by the year 2016.

This long gestation period from first exposure when the deadly asbestos fibres were first inhaled and became permanently embedded in the lung linings to when the first asbestosis symptoms appear, can be between 15 to 50 years. Lack of asbestos awareness or a misdiagnosis due to close similarities to other pleural diseases are often contributory factors.

By the time diagnosis is confirmed at an advanced stage of the disease, the patient may only have between 6 to 12 months left to live. Even though three years is given as the time limit by which to apply for mesothelioma compensation, too often death will have occurred before a claim is resolved. There is no known cure for mesothelioma and most surgical procedures aim to hinder the inevitable spread of the tumours where possible. However, with appropriate palliative care and careful attention to nutrition, which can be as important as chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments, it is possible to both and extend life by up to 2 years, and in some rare cases, even longer.

Apart from mesothelioma, of which asbestos exposure is the sole cause, it is known that as many as 35 per cent of cancer cases can be associated with poor nutrition and patients who maintain healthy dietary habits often have a better prognosis than patients who do not, which can also be extremely helpful during treatment. It is also common for the white blood cell count of mesothelioma cancer patients to be low, which can make it easier to develop an infection. Nausea is one of the most frequently reported side effects of some treatments like chemotherapy and making changes to a diet can address the issue.

While nutritional guidelines are generally different for everyone, the best diet depends on factors like age, weight, height, overall health, and genetics. Intake of nutrient-rich food is essential, while reducing fast food, sweets, and processed foods, which slow down the immune system, metabolism and block the lymphatic system, is vitally important. The most healthy diets are rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein and dairy products and some additional healthy carbohydrates, such as potatoes and whole wheat pasta.

A basic guideline to a healthy eating plan should be to ensure that fruits and vegetables make up at least 50 percent of a diet, staying away from processed foods, buying organic where possible and regularly eating plenty of fibre.