Cancer patient gives warning on asbestos

Brian Cleal with Portsmouth Dockyard in the background
Brian Cleal with Portsmouth Dockyard in the background
Pupils at Fareham Academy taking part in the Restart a Heart event

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A MAN who was exposed to asbestos and now has a lung condition is raising awareness of the substance and its effects.

Brian Cleal, 67, is working with support group Breathe Easy and lawyers Moore Blatch to promote understanding of the early symptoms associated with mesothelioma – which is caused by exposure to asbestos.

Mr Cleal, from Crookhorn, was diagnosed with the condition in 2008. It was linked to his father, George Cleal, who worked as a shipwright driller at Portsmouth Dockyard.

As a youngster, Brian recalls that his father frequently returned from work covered head to toe in a white powder.

Brian’s father was diagnosed with mesothelioma and suffered early symptoms linked to the disease, such as breathlessness. But it wasn’t until 2001 that George started to experience symptoms.

He said: ‘I’d walk upstairs and I’d become breathless, but it was nothing like I had experienced before.

‘It felt like I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs.

‘I also noticed it when I went to pick up my tools for work, which was becoming really hard to do.’

It took a further six years to identify the condition – eventually a CAT scan confirmed that he had been exposed to asbestos.

This had affected the walls of his lungs and he was also diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Asbestos-related conditions can be a challenge to diagnose, and so law firm Moore Blatch, which represents medical cases, said people need to look out for symptoms.

Asbestos–related disease expert Michael Osborne said: ‘In our experience early symptoms of severe breathlessness often progress on to frequent chest infections, which can be confused and associated with other common conditions.

‘GPs must be encouraged to refer patients with such symptoms much earlier.

‘Often early respiratory problems and chest infections are treated with antibiotics.

‘But they do not deal with the underlying lung condition.

‘And this can leave many people struggling to cope with reoccurring symptoms, as well as having a huge impact on families financially.’