Mesothelioma in Australia

There have been a number of changes in survival and the factors affecting survival for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma in Western Australia over the past five decades according to recent research. The increase in treatment resources and the amount spent to treat patients has resulted in modest improvements in survival rate.

Australian Researchers Document Improvements

In a study titled Predicting Survival for Malignant Mesothelioma, published online July 7, 2011 in the European Respiratory Journal, these scientists examined records of mesothelioma patients contained in the Western Australia Mesothelioma Registry. They analyzed each patient record up to December 2005 to find data about sex, age, date and method of diagnosis, site of disease and whether the patient had epithelial, sarcomatoid or biphasic mesothelioma.

Here’s what they observed:

  • The older the patient was at diagnosis, the lower their survival rate.
  • Males had a 40 percent lower survival rate than females.
  • Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma had a 40 percent lower survival rate.
  • Patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma had a worse prognosis than patients with epithelioid and biphasic.
  • Survival improved after the 1970s and has made continued improvements since then.
  • Average survival from 1960 until 2005 increased approximately 301 days, and about 4 weeks of this can be attributed to earlier diagnosis.

Australia Has a Long History of Asbestos Use

Australia has a number of asbestos deposits scattered throughout the country ranging from the crocidolite mine in Wittenoom in Western Australia, to the chrysotile mine in Woodsreef in New South Wales. In addition, one in three houses built in Australia before 1982 contains asbestos.

The mine in Wittenoom was closed in 1966 and the Woodsreef one was closed in 1983. However, their closing didn’t alleviate the problem of asbestos-related disease. Today, Australia is considered to have the worst asbestos disease problem, with annual fatalities of over 3,000 people. The disease isn’t expected to reach its peak in Australia until 2020.

There are still a few residents in Wittenoom, despite all efforts of the Australian government to force them to leave by cutting off their electricity, water and telephone lines. Lorraine Thomas, the town’s councilor and owner of its only shop was quoted in an article published in 2004 in the British newspaper The Observer as saying that testing of airborne particles in the town have shown that levels of asbestos fiber are about the same there as in most urban areas in Australia.

However, the West Australian government wants to shut down the town entirely, closing access roads, and demolishing the remaining buildings.

The asbestos Mining Crisis is Small in Comparison to the one Caused by Manufacturing Asbestos Products

As large as the asbestos-exposure related health crisis caused by mining chrysotile and crocidolite is, it pales in comparison to the anticipated fallout from the manufacturing of asbestos products. It is expected that 45,000 people who were exposed to asbestos as a result of employment in the manufacturing of these products will die before the epidemic peaks in 2020.

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