The ability to recognise the first signs of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms has always been especially difficult as early symptoms can very often be mistaken for other types of common infections or ailments involving coughing, shortness of breath, chest or stomach pains, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or similar respiratory diseases – even the common cold.

Many victims may simply explain away early symptoms as a result of a lifetime of cigarette smoking, still a common practice, especially in heavy industries for most of the twentieth century. The early signs of mesothelioma tend to become apparent well beyond the age of fifty when some of the common ailments associated with aging can also begin to develop, and once again, symptoms of the disease will often be missed.

It is now better understood that the problem lies in the unusually long gestation period of up to 40 years or more that can elapse from the first exposure and breathing in of the asbestos fibres.

Mesothelioma most seriously affects those former employees who often had no knowledge or asbestos awareness of the long term health risks and who worked in the key industrial areas of Scotland, North of England, the Midlands and South of England ports, where asbestos material was most widely used in building and construction, manufacturing, engineering, shipbuilding and other industrial applications, such as in foundries, the railways and automotive assembly.

At least twenty cities from Glasgow, Inverclyde, Sunderland and Barrow-In-Furness to Plymouth, Southampton and Dagenham have often appeared in recorded mesothelioma fatalities.

It has been estimated that if an earlier diagnosis could be made and an appropriate treatment given, half of mesothelioma sufferers could expect to live for around two years. It is also suggested that 20 per cent of sufferers could survive for five years, compared to only 5 per cent for patients with advanced mesothelioma who might only have a survival rate of only between 4 to 12 months.

Surprisingly, a number of myths still surround mesothelioma, which can also prevent catching the disease at an early stage. Undoubtedly, the chief myth still in circulation is that a limited exposure only to asbestos was and is, not harmful, and the chrysotile (white) asbestos type mostly found in public or private properties today, poses no real health risk.

Medical and scientific research has clearly shown that there is no safe level of exposure to white asbestos and is classed by the Government as a Class 1 carcinogen. While the ‘curly’ white chrysotile fibre is considered a ‘low level’ risk and less toxic than the ‘needle’ fibres of blue crocidolite and brown amosite types, which were banned in 1985, white asbestos was, and still is, considered dangerous to health if fibres are released and inhaled.

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), 2,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually in the UK and the number of asbestosis claim cases has more than doubled by 2010. Incidence of mesothelioma has increased almost four-fold since the early 1980s and it is predicted that a further 45,000 mesothelioma fatalities are to be expected by 2050.