Tuesday, July 23, 2024

‘I’ve no idea how I developed asbestos-related cancer’


By Kathryn Stanczyszyn, BBC Radio WM, Presenter • Oprah Flash, BBC News, West Midlands

Emily-Jane Scandrett Emily-Jane ScandrettEmily-Jane Scandrett

Emily-Jane Scandrett suffered an intolerable pain in her chest for months before she received her diagnosis

A mum with a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos hopes to raise awareness after it went undetected for more than a year.

Emily-Jane Scandrett has pleural mesothelioma, which is most often found in men over 75.

Despite undergoing a number of tests it went undiagnosed for 17 months, including throughout her pregnancy.

The 41-year-old from Tamworth said she had no idea when she had come into contact with the substance, found in buildings that pre-date 2000, and is calling for more awareness of symptoms among medical professionals and potential sufferers.

Emily-Jane Scandrett Emily-Jane Scandrett in hospitalEmily-Jane Scandrett

So far, she has been through six cycles of immunotherapy

Ms Scandrett said it was during the fifth week of her second pregnancy in May 2022 that she began to experience a “paralysing” pain in her chest.

“I felt like I was being stabbed in my rib cage, it radiated up to my chest, shoulder and right arm,” she told BBC Radio WM.

She was admitted into hospital four times but said a number of scans and blood tests produced a normal result, so she was unaware of the severity of her situation.

Nine months after the birth of her son, on 31 October last year, she was told her cancer was incurable.

‘I’m living my life’

While her condition cannot be cured, to tackle the symptoms she has been through six cycles of immunotherapy so far.

“I’ve heard of asbestos, but have never given it a second thought,” she said.

“My body didn’t choose to inhale asbestos, it just happened and more awareness needs to be made to the general public and health professionals about the risks.

“I’m very fortunate that I am still here, I’m living my life.”

Shutterstock People walking by an asbestos signShutterstock

The mum has no idea where or when she came into contact with asbestos and is calling for it to be removed from schools

Asbestos is the biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

It was extensively used for insulation in the construction of schools and public buildings before it was banned over health concerns in 1999.

An estimated 87,000 public buildings still contain the hazardous material, according to research by legal firm Irwin Mitchell.

The teaching union NASUWT, said it would take 400 years to rebuild every school in the country under the government’s current programme.

Rebuilding plans ‘not acceptable’

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, dry cough and chest pain.

After inhalation of asbestos, the fibres can embed in the pleura – the lining of the lung – causing inflammation and scarring. Over time this can lead to the development of mesothelioma tumours.

More than 2,700 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the UK, according to NHS data.

To raise money for two charities, Mesothelioma UK and Asbestos Support Central England, Mrs Scandrett and her husband took part in a walking marathon across Worcestershire on Saturday.

She said more needed to be done to eradicate asbestos from buildings.

“At the moment the rebuilding programme in England will take more than 400 years to remove all the asbestos from schools and hospitals, that’s just not acceptable at all,” she said.



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