Living with mesothelioma: A qualitative study of the experiences of male military veterans in the UK

European Journal of Oncology Nursing 2020 December 19 [Link]

Stephanie Ejegi-Memeh, Liz Darlison, Anne Moylan, Angela Tod, Virginia Sherborne, Clare Warnock, Bethany Hope Taylor


Purpose: The UK has the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world. Evidence in the United States suggests that mesothelioma may disproportionately affect military veterans. However, there has been no investigation of the experience of UK veterans living with mesothelioma. The Military Mesothelioma Experience Study (MiMES) aimed to understand the experience and health/support needs of British Armed Forces personnel/veterans with mesothelioma.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 veterans living with mesothelioma, and nine family members of veterans living with mesothelioma. Participants were recruited via charities and asbestos support groups. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Participants’ experiences are presented using three themes, i) exposure to asbestos and awareness of asbestos related diseases, ii) using military strategies to cope with mesothelioma and iii) preferences for information and support. MiMES indicates that the nature and range of UK military veterans’ asbestos exposure is varied and not limited to high risk occupations. Participants’ knowledge of asbestos and experience of mesothelioma influenced their experiences of diagnosis. Participants had coping strategies influenced by their military experiences. Assistance in navigating health and military systems was considered beneficial, especially if support was provided by professionals with knowledge or experience of the military. Attributes which may inhibit veterans from seeking professional support are discussed.

Conclusion: MiMES provides insight into how UK military veterans experience and cope with mesothelioma. Key implications focus on the role that Mesothelioma Nurse Specialists, Asbestos Support Groups and veterans groups play in providing acceptable support for UK veterans.