A new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and Mesothelioma UK shows that more mesothelioma patients diagnosed in England and Wales during 2014-2016 are receiving active anti-cancer treatment with chemotherapy.
The report also shows that despite increased active treatment, just 7% of patients are alive three years after being diagnosed.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer predominately linked to asbestos, and found mainly in older men due to being linked to occupations such as shipbuilding and electrical installation where exposure to asbestos is high. The disease typically affects the chest, but can also occur in other sites such as the abdomen.
Other key findings from the National Mesothelioma Audit report 2018 include:
- Pathological confirmation of the diagnosis was achieved in 88% of cases, only just short of the 90% audit standard
- Access to a cancer nurse specialist remains variable across England.
- 81% of patients were discussed at lung multi-disciplinary team (MDTs) meetings – short of the 95% target but an improvement on previous years
- Specialist services for patients suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma are now emerging. Peritoneal mesothelioma is rare, constituting 4% of mesothelioma cases, and are included for the first time in this report
The report also shows a breakdown of incidence, treatment and survival rates by region on page 15.
My story begins in the summer of 2015, although I didn’t quite realise it at that point!! I had intermittent pains in my chest, but thought they were muscular, due to heaving my bike on and off the train as a commuter. The following year, I had a cough, nothing unusual in a household with young children, but, my cough didn’t settle, and I became anxious. By the time I saw my GP, she asked if I had been short of breath, and worryingly, I realised that I had.
In January 2017, following a CT scan, I was told I had pleural cancer. This turned out to be mesothelioma. I found it very difficult to make treatment decisions, but with the guidance of my oncologist, I decided to go for chemotherapy. Luckily for me, I had an incredible response, with most of the tumour shrinking away, allowing me to have a wonderful summer with my family.
Things have changed for me since then; the disease progressed again fairly quickly. I am now on my third line of treatment but have my eye on the numerous clinical trials currently open in the UK.
In this era of social media, patients are increasingly well informed and connected. They understandably question the differences between treatment options in different centres. Audit of care can drive up standards, giving both treatment centres targets to aim for, and something for patients to benchmark their care against.
Mags Portman, mesothelioma patient
Dr Susan Harden, National Mesothelioma Audit clinical lead, said: “It is pleasing to see that more patients are receiving chemotherapy, however the report clearly identifies areas for improvement for mesothelioma patients. It is important that more patients are seen by cancer nurses, and that MDTs manage a greater number of cases of mesothelioma.
“I welcome this report and hope that the recommendations are taken forward to reduce the variation in care that patients receive.”
Professor Mick Peake, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Mesothelioma UK said: “This report shows that there is evidence of some improvements since the first report in 2008, particularly in the proportion of patients receiving chemotherapy. However, wide variations remain between cancer alliances and it is clear that many lung cancer MDTs are managing very small numbers of cases each year.
“I hope that those responsible for providing and commissioning the services for patients suffering from mesothelioma will look at this report and seriously consider what implications it has for their own responsibilities for providing high quality care for all.”
The audit is commissioned by Mesothelioma UK and carried out by the Royal College of Physicians. It follows two previous audits covering the periods of 2008-12 and 2014. Detailed data on 7,192 individual patients with mesothelioma were collected and analysed to produce the report.
It typically takes around 20 to 50 years for mesothelioma to develop, with the peak for cases due to be between 2020 and 2025.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Amarinder Cooner, communications adviser, RCP Care Quality Improvement Department on 020 3075 2399.