Occupational asbestos exposure: how to deal with suspected mesothelioma cases—the Dutch approach

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Abstract

Introduction

Patients with asbestos-related diseases, such as malignant mesothelioma (MM), are not uniformly treated in Europe when they apply for compensation. In The Netherlands, the Institute of Asbestos Victims (IAV) acts on behalf of patients with a malignant mesothelioma. In the majority of cases, the diagnosis is clear but in some, uncertainty remains. In these cases a specialist opinion of the Mesothelioma Group of the Dutch Thoracic Society (DTS) is required. The process of data handling and final outcome for these patients is discussed and compared with the situation in other European countries.

Materials and methods

Dutch patients with a possible malignant mesothelioma and occupational exposure to asbestos presented their cases to the IAV. In 10% of the cases, pathological confirmation of a malignant mesothelioma could not be obtained. These cases were presented to the Mesothelioma Group to obtain a clinical diagnosis based on clinical reports, occupational history, X-ray examination and other factors. Each case was reviewed by three independent pulmonologists experienced in MM. The majority view was binding for acceptance or rejection of the diagnosis.

Results

In the period January 2000 until May 2005, the IAV received 1747 cases for compensation. In 161 cases no definitive diagnosis could be made on pathology and were presented to the Mesothelioma Group. Of these cases, 117 (73%) were considered to be compatible with the clinical diagnosis malignant pleural mesothelioma. Forty-four cases (27%) were rejected. In 75% of the cases (112 of 150), the conclusion of the three independent specialists was unanimous; in 11 cases one specialist refrained from a diagnosis. The median time from request to submission of the report was 34 days (range 1–185 days).

Conclusions

Compared with other European countries, this approach, as determined by the IAV and Mesothelioma Group of the DTS, is an effective and rapid way to investigate claims of patients with a possible occupationally related malignant mesothelioma.

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