Six questions that may establish whether an unexplained lung condition could be asbestos related

Posted: 2nd Jun 15 12:53 PM

As the first point of contact for most patients, GPs hold a pivotal role in the diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease, which could make all the difference to the patient’s care and to securing their family’s future.

Many GPs based in dockland and industrial areas will have come across asbestos-related diseases and know what to look for and the questions to ask a patient. But even in regions with a history of heavy industry when the use of asbestos was common place, asbestos cases are rare compared to the huge number of viral illnesses and depressions that GPs deal with on a daily basis.

In some cases, GPs may not consider an asbestos-related disease because the location of their surgery is not within a perceived asbestos ‘hot-spot’ area. For this reason they may not have come into contact with an asbestos sufferer. They may be unaware that a patient’s work or family history could be the first clue to explain and diagnose their lung condition.

Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening are also not easy to diagnose. The symptoms – such as breathlessness, persistent cough, chest pains, tiredness and weight loss – are associated with a great many lung diseases and other illnesses.

On top of all those factors, GPs are up against time constraints with an average of just 10 minutes to spend with a patient during each appointment.

The right questions

To highlight asbestos-related diseases with medical professionals and as a gentle reminder for those GPs who are not aware of asbestos’ deadly legacy in the UK, we have put together six questions which may help the diagnosis of an unknown lung condition. Hopefully the six questions may save some time too.

(Click on the images to see them in a higher resolution)

If you would like some physical copies of this leaflet, please email Ronan Kennedy at and we will be happy to post them out to you.

Further reading

What is asbestos?

What is mesothelioma?

What is pleural thickening?