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Men and Cancer – the importance of early advice and support

By Nicola Handley, an asbestos-related disease lawyer at Irwin Mitchell

Lung Cancer Awareness Month and International Men’s Day

These events, both of which fall in November, are a huge opportunity to highlight the fact that one in two men will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime. This compares to an incidence of one in three in women. 

I have experienced cancer both as a lawyer specialising in cancer claims, but also personally. The issue is therefore a subject very close to my heart.

My father and father-in-law both received cancer diagnoses in their 60’s and unsurprisingly they were the top three cancers that occur in men. 

My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer nine-years-ago.  As a black male he was 50 per cent more likely to develop the disease.  His cancer was only diagnosed as a result of a “Well man check” but illustrates the importance of regular check-ups being beneficial.  He remains on active treatment to this day and never doubts himself when symptoms appear and seeks advice at the earliest opportunity.

My father in law was diagnosed with lung cancer three-years-ago. Like many men, he had thought a cough and a cold was nothing serious and only after a full course of anti-biotics underwent further investigations.  He was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and despite his best efforts passed away after just five weeks.

Mesothelioma and men

At Irwin Mitchell, we have maintained a strong relationship with Mesothelioma UK for many years, supporting the charity in its aims. I have been representing clients diagnosed with mesothelioma for more than 15 years and the high incidence of the disease in males remains significant to this day.

In my recent conversation with Simon Bolton, the Mesothelioma UK Clinical Nurse Specialist working in West and North Yorkshire, he advised that he sees some of the highest number of cases in the country, due to the industrial legacy in my region of Yorkshire. Latest data shows that more than 83 per cent of pleural mesothelioma cases are male and the majority of these are related to occupational asbestos exposure. 

Simon discussed with me the fact that his role focuses on ensuring that all people affected by mesothelioma are considered for the most appropriate care and treatments as well as clinical trials. It’s also hugely important to signpost everyone to expert welfare rights, benefits and legal support.

The average three-year survival rates for pleural mesothelioma are only seven per cent and the disease remains incurable.  However, the benefits of early advice are now being seen much more when supporting people diagnosed with mesothelioma and many more people are accessing second and third line treatment, often through new and emerging treatments.

The importance of support

However, the value of support can also never be underestimated.  My father discusses with me regularly about the benefits of speaking to friends having similar treatment and also talking to strangers in waiting rooms who are having the same or similar experiences.

My clients frequently tell me that the support from their family, friends, clinicians and even their legal representatives is invaluable

Simon has also run the Mesothelioma Support Yorkshire (MESSY) group for almost 10 years and he says people that attend the group not only receive support but offer it as well. 

As a woman, I feel that the role I play is not only to support the men and boys in my life but to also encourage them to engage in positive conversation with others about their health and well-being.

Virtual Panel Event

In support of International Men’s Day 2021, Irwin Mitchell is hosting a virtual panel event to continue to promote a positive conversation about men’s and boys’ health and to discuss the challenges that they face.  You can find out more about the event, our speakers and register on our website.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting people and their families diagnosed with mesothelioma and other diseases at our dedicated asbestos-related disease section.