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Nurses equal better prognosis

Specialist nurses can make a huge difference to the quality of life for people with asbestos-related diseases.

Specialist nurses can make a huge difference to the quality of life, access to treatments and compensation for people with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

This was one of the messages from UK nursing research fellow Sally Moore at the recent Lung Cancer National Conference held recently in Melbourne.

Moore, a nursing research fellow from the Royal Marsden Hospital in London explained that, like in Australia, people with mesothelioma in the UK are often diagnosed with advanced disease and have a poor prognosis.

“One of the things we’ve recognised is that patients are more likely to have access to treatments and information if they are looked after by people who have specialist knowledge and skills in lung cancer and mesothelioma,” she said.

Along with specialist nursing knowledge, support groups are an enormous benefit to people who are trying to access the latest treatments,

Law firm Maurice Blackburn, which specialises in asbestos compensation, sponsored Moore’s trip to Australia to raise awareness of the different models of care for people with asbestos related disease.

Around 2400 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the UK each year and in Australia which has one of the highest incidences of mesothelioma in the world, about 18,000 cases are expected by the year 2020, according to a University of Sydney study.

The UK has four specialist mesothelioma nurses and whenever they were involved in the care of people with mesothelioma the situation improved for those patients.

Patients who are under the care of a specialist nurse are also more likely to be put in touch with a lawyer who can quickly secure compensation for them, said Moore.

“If people access compensation it can make their life easier, they can access private health care services and for some people it also helps them to appreciate that it’s not their fault that they have the disease.”

Australia has no designated mesothelioma nurses but there are around 20 nurses who are dedicated to lung cancer care. There are also moves afoot to train more nurses, said Judy Rafferty, from the ACT is nurse care coordinator, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

She completed the three month online Mesothelioma Practice Course through the Royal Marsden Hospital. “This was so valuable and would recommend this to other health professionals, not only for increased knowledge base but for the international networking,” said Rafferty.

“There needs to be far more financial support for lung cancer research and we need greater awareness from both health professionals and the general public regarding the next wave of asbestosis exposure and associated risk.

Theodora Ahilas principal lawyer with Maurice Blackburn, said it made sense to train more nurses because the number of people with asbestos related cancers has not yet peaked in Australia.

“Nursing is becoming increasingly specialised and we know from our clients that they would value the continuity of care that specialist nurses can provide,” said Ahilas.

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