Law Firms Supports Major Report As More Women Continue To Die From Cancer Linked To Exposure To Hazardous Material
Women remain largely unaware of the dangers of asbestos and social expectations may be leaving them substantially out of pocket compared with men, a new report has found.
The findings come in the Gendered Experience of Mesothelioma Study (GEMS) undertaken by the University of Sheffield on behalf of Mesothelioma UK and supported by law firm Irwin Mitchell.
The study was launched in 2019, amid concerns women have a different experience from men of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung (and less commonly the abdomen) caused by past exposure to asbestos.
In addition to the lack of awareness of asbestos among women, gender was found to be a factor deterring women from seeking compensation, leaving them worse off than male mesothelioma patients and less likely to seek the support they may be entitled to.
Women did not report the same social expectation as men regarding financial responsibility and wanted to avoid confrontation by seeking compensation, the report said. Worryingly, women felt seeking support would prove costly, time consuming and make the experience of living with mesothelioma even harder.
The study follows the latest statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive in July, which reported 396 women died from mesothelioma in 2018 – a death rate that has, sadly, steadily increased over the last four decades.
The increasing death rate among women is believed to result from indirect exposure to asbestos in the workplace rather than direct handling of the hazardous substance. This supports another key finding in the study that confirms high risk occupations for women encountering asbestos differ markedly from men.
Men remain more at risk from construction-related occupations and direct handling of asbestos, while for women, common occupations were in office administration, teaching and health service roles.
Men and women were found to respond to a mesothelioma diagnosis based on gender roles rather than actual needs. The social expectation deterring women from seeking financial aid sees men reluctant to seek support or admit to mental health issues they may be facing.
Armed with this information, the study will be used to better tailor services to male and female differences and serve as a wake-up call, to everyone concerned, to the extent that what mesothelioma patients say may not be what they mean or really need, with gender playing a bigger role than expected.
Expert Opinion“We are very proud to have supported this very important piece of research; this report confirms what many of us have suspected for some time about the role of gender in mesothelioma. The insight into the motivations of men and women will allow us to better tailor services to individual needs.
“The worry is that many women may be missing out on essential support and compensation, by not feeling the same sense of entitlement of men, or a mistaken perception that it will make life harder in some way.
“We need to ensure that women are taking full advantage of the support, services and legal advice they are entitled to. The GEMS study also shows that young men may share the same lack of awareness and entitlement as women, while older men seem reluctant to speak out on mental health issues.
“Armed with this report, we will be much more aware of the signs to look out for and this will prove invaluable in helping us to deliver the best possible outcomes for clients, regardless of their sex.” Adrian Budgen - Partner
The study is based on research and data analysis that included interviewing a sample of male and female mesothelioma patients.
While mesothelioma numbers among men have remained stable over the last decade, Cancer Research UK figures suggest mortality rates among women have increased by 20 per cent.