In the United States, National Mesothelioma Awareness Day back in late September announced loud and clear that mesothelioma is bad news.
The horrific cancer was discussed by thousands that day. And those discussions were heard or seen by millions via television, radio, newspapers and the Internet.
But across the Atlantic Ocean, in the United Kingdom, it’s a different story entirely. Ask the average Brit to share what he or she knows about mesothelioma and you’re likely to draw a blank stare in return.
According to a recent survey, close to three-quarters of the population of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are clueless about mesothelioma.
The shocking survey revealed that just 17 percent of adults in the U.K. can name a single symptom of mesothelioma. Slightly more than 6 percent can name two symptoms.
Mesothelioma Is a Mystery to Most People in U.K.
The survey findings were reported on Oct. 7. It was conducted by Asbestos Advice Helpline, an organization that helps mesothelioma patients in the U.K. obtain compensation for medical bills.
Asbestos Advice Hotline said it sampled more than 2,000 people across the U.K. All of those who participated in the poll were at least 45 years old.
The organization said it chose to make 45 the minimum age for participation because people who are that age and older are the ones at greatest risk of being stricken by mesothelioma. It therefore expected to find that people 45 and up would be the ones best informed about mesothelioma.
The pollsters confessed to being stunned by the lack of awareness of mesothelioma among those most potentially imperiled by the disease.
They were especially puzzled that people should be so uninformed because asbestos exposure is a big problem throughout the British Isles. In the U.K., asbestos was legally available for use in materials and products until the country outlawed the toxic mineral in 1999.
Lack of U.K. Mesothelioma Awareness Due to Rarity of the Cancer
Observers are suggesting the most likely explanation for the huge deficit in U.K. mesothelioma awareness is the disease’s rarity. Not enough U.K. residents know people who have mesothelioma or who are directly affected by it.
They point to the fact that mesothelioma afflicts no more than about 2,500 Brits annually. Granted, that is a small number. However, it’s close to the annual mesothelioma diagnosis rate here in the U.S.
In the U.S., new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed at a rate of between 2,000 and 3,000 per year.
But, proportionally speaking, 2,500 new mesothelioma cases per year would have a greater impact in the U.K. than the same number in the U.S.
That’s because the U.S. population is many times larger than the population in the U.K. In the U.S. there are approximately 320 million people. In the U.K. there are about 64 million people.
On a per capita basis, 2,500 mesothelioma cases in a big place like the U.S. is a lot harder to notice than is 2,500 mesothelioma cases in a small place like the U.K.
The solution to the relative invisibility of mesothelioma in Great Britain is, of course, for the U.K. to boost up its own National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.
In Britain, it’s called Action Mesothelioma Day. They engage in many of the same activities as we do to promote mesothelioma recognition.
The only difference is that they do it in a more reserved manner. We in the U.S. take an admittedly more boisterous approach to spreading the word — as evidenced by the throng of blue-clad mesothelioma fighters bouncing in the background on NBC-TV’s “Today” show.
As we know in America, to call attention to a problem you’ve got to make a lot of noise. And that’s the great thing about our National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.
It’s hard not to notice it or the vitally important message it seeks to deliver.