Number of diagnosed mesothelioma cases and number compensated
by WorkSafeBC, BC, 1970-2006
- Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer with a single, well-established cause: exposure to asbestos or related minerals.
- More than 80% of mesothelioma cases are likely caused by workplace exposures, and because of the long latency between exposure and disease, cases of mesothelioma are expected to peak between 2015 and 2019.
- Our research shows that less than half of individuals with mesothelioma listed in the BC Cancer Registry file a workers’ compensation claim for their disease.
- In order to increase awareness of compensation services, we worked with the BC Cancer Agency and WorkSafeBC to send a letter to all physicians of newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients.
- This letter campaign, which began in November 2004, increased compensation rates by 10% for those patients whose physicians received a letter in the years 2004 to 2006. However, our ongoing surveillance of mesothelioma cases has shown that since 2006, the intervention effect of the letter has declined. We continue to work with the BC Cancer Agency and WorkSafeBC to refine and improve this notification system.
Understanding why individuals do or do not seek compensation
- Through qualitative interviews with mesothelioma patients, their family members, and physicians, we investigated (1) the reasons why individuals do or do not seek compensation; (2) avenues for effectively communicating information to them about occupational disease and compensation; and (3) why physicians may or may not provide advice or recommendations to patients on occupational disease and compensation.
- We found that individuals with mesothelioma and their families rely heavily on physicians as trusted sources of information for both medical and compensation-related issues and that the process for filing a compensation claim is perceived as a complicated and uncertain bureaucratic procedure.
- A random sample of physicians who would typically deal with occupational diseases tended to agree that they were unfamiliar with the workers’ compensation system, that helping individuals with mesothelioma seek compensation is time consuming, and that the compensation process is a barrier for their patients.
- We recommend increasing awareness of occupational exposures and related diseases, and workers’ compensation processes, among physicians.