AUSTRALIA’s first dedicated website for silicosis sufferers has been launched, offering face-to-face or online support for Gold Coasters struggling with a diagnosis.
It comes as five more Queenslanders are diagnosed with the potentially fatal lung disease.
According to WorkCover health screening data of 1053 stonemasons, 228 people have been diagnosed with a work-related condition as of October 31. Of these, 184 young men have silicosis and 32 have progressive massive fibrosis (advanced silicosis).
WorkCover said it was helping them with their recovery, rehabilitation and providing compensation for loss of wages.
For their mental health, silicosis sufferers diagnosed with the terminal illness can now jump online and access confidential support through the Silicosis Support Network’s new website.
In addition to offering social workers and individual, peer or group support, the service provides vital information and resources on the disease.
It also facilitates monthly group supports and offers home visits. It does not offer medical or treatment advice but can put members in touch with medical professionals.
Developed with funding from the Queensland Department of Health, the service is run by the Asbestos Disease Support Society.
The non-profit Society general manager Trevor Torrens said many professionals in the health sector thought asbestos-related disease was a giant tragedy that couldn’t happen again.
“Well it is happening again, but this time it’s called silicosis, with an estimated 450 cases in Australia and hundreds more undergoing health screening,” he said.
“Tragically, the number of cases being diagnosed is now rising very quickly and forecast to grow substantially over the next decade.”
Mr Torrens said the support network would help fathers, husbands and sons tell their loved ones about their illness and was developed in conjunction with a 34-year-old diagnosed with accelerated silicosis two years ago.
“The information provided is valid and relevant to the specific needs of silicosis sufferers, their families and their caregivers,” he said.
“The network understands that there’s often more questions than answered when people receive a silicosis diagnosis. “And there’s no hard border on the website, so people from all states and territories are welcome to visit it.”
Earlier this month the Bulletin revealed doctors at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane, in consultation with scientists from University of Queensland, have found a potential world-first cure silicosis.
Funded by The Common Good, the treatment involves patients undergoing a whole lung lavage whereby 25 litres of water is slowly flushed through each lung.
Six silicosis sufferers have undergone the trials and those with mild cases were virtually cured of the disease.
The Common Good is fundraising to ensure the work continues.
To contact the Silicosis Support Network call 1800 776 412 or visit silicosissupport.org.au