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Alternative pain relief treatment for mesothelioma sufferers

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Mesothelioma sufferers not responding to conventional pain relief may respond to an alternative treatment - percutaneous spinal cordotomy.

The procedure involves placing an electrode into the nerves in the spinal cord which transmit pain information to the brain, using specialist X-ray guidance.

The nerves are heated and the procedure is done under local anaesthetic to enable the patient to communicate any sensations they feel during it.

Patients treated this way are reported to have gained pain relief, although the procedure is not always successful if the nerves cannot be identified safely.

Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, and sufferers often have a very short life expectancy. It is usually caused as a result of exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos was widely used as a building, insulating and fireproof material from the 1950's until the 1980's and many people were exposed during their employment. Workers exposed as long ago as 40 years might only now be developing asbestos related conditions, such as mesothelioma.

Asbestos remains the biggest work related cause of death in the UK and mesothelioma claims more than 2,000 lives each year in the UK.

"The need for more research into asbestos related conditions is long overdue..." - Sara Hunt, Associate, Asbestos specialist

Although there are some treatments and surgical interventions which can increase life expectancy, it is generally difficult to treat because of its location and the fact it does not respond well to chemotherapy.

Yet Mesothelioma is one of the least researched of the UK's top 20 cancers. Last year a petition was presented to 10 Downing Street, urging the Government to fund a national centre for asbestos related disease. The Government is now considering a number of measures to fund such as centre including a contribution from the Insurance industry.

Sara Hunt, associate and specialist asbestos said: "The need for more research into asbestos related conditions is long overdue.

"The government in Australia has already committed AUS$6.2m to such a centre.  Mesothelioma and other asbestos conditions are extremely debilitating and distressing for the victims and their families. Funding for a UK centre for life saving treatment and pain relieving treatment has to be a priority."

There are only three centres in the UK offering this alternative pain relieving treatment, and anyone considering it should discuss the appropriateness and risks with their GP or healthcare team.

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