Scotland

Families call for asbestos screening

Gordon Roberts
Image caption Gordon Roberts died less than a year after being diagnosed with mesothelioma

Families of workers affected by asbestos related cancers have called for better screening for the condition.

Illnesses associated with working in the construction industry are thought to kill more than 4,000 people across the UK every year.

Experts have warned that 2015 will see a peak in numbers.

The Clydeside Action on Asbestos charity said early detection would improve the life expectancy of patients.

Lynsey Innes, 40, told BBC Scotland how her father Gordon Roberts died of mesothelioma - a form of cancer most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos.

Difficulty breathing

Mr Roberts had spent his working like as a joiner before retiring at the age of 62. He kept fit by swimming.

He had difficulty breathing last summer and eventually went to the doctor, where an X-ray examination found mesothelioma.

Mr Roberts was told he had only between nine and 12 months to live, and died at Easter of this year. He was 70.

Image caption The father and uncle of Lynsey Innes both died of asbestos-related disease

Ms Innes said her uncle, who had been a plumber, also died of mesothelioma after discovering pains in his shoulder.

She said: "It was just a simple x-ray that picked up my dad's cancer. It doesn't cost a lot of money to give an X-ray to somebody. (Carrying out screening) within a certain generation, over a certain period of time, would be ample to try and catch it at an early stage.

"If you catch it at an earlier stage the chemotherapy may shrink the tumour, you may then not get nine to 12 months - you can get up to five years."

Routine X-rays

At its annual general meeting on Saturday, Clydeside Action on Asbestos - the biggest asbestos charity in Scotland - called for more investment in screening, either through routine X-rays or a simple blood test that would detect illnesses.

Phyllis Craig, the charity's chairwoman, said catching the disease at the earlier possible opportunity would allow patients to "start making plans for their life and their families and so forth, but also to receive any form of treatment that may be available."

A Scottish government spokesman said it took advice on national screening programmes from the National Screening Committee, and screening programmes are only introduced after a detailed assessment of clinical and cost effectiveness and public health benefit.

He added: "The National Screening Committee has not considered screening for asbestos exposure."

He encouraged anyone who has symptoms such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, coughing and chest pains and who has a history of working in occupations or industries associated with asbestos exposure to contact their GP.