Inquest: Carpenter died from rare form of cancer

Jo and John Montgomery at their wedding at Thorpe Hall Hospice in 2009. Photo: Alan Storer/Peterborough ET

Jo and John Montgomery at their wedding at Thorpe Hall Hospice in 2009. Photo: Alan Storer/Peterborough ET

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A carpenter and joiner from near Stamford died from a rare form of cancer which has been linked with wood dust, an inquest has been told.

John Montgomery, from Collyweston, near Stamford, died at the age of 37 on 4 August, 2009, as a result of a sinonasal carcinoma tumour.

An inquest into his death held yesterday heard it is a cancer diagnosed in about one in a million people a year but among one in 2,000 people who work with wood.

Mr Montgomery, who was featured in the Evening Telegraph after he and his long-term partner married the day before he died, began working in the industry at the age of 16.

The court was told Mr Montgomery had been taken on as an apprentice by Martin Thompson, from Ramsey Mereside, who initially ran a business out of his shed at his home, before moving to larger premises in the same village.

Mr Montgomery’s widow, Jo (55), now of Churchfield Road, Walton, Peterborough, told the inquest that he would frequently come home “absolutely covered in dust” during his time working with Mr Thompson.

Mr Thompson disputed the level at which Mr Montgomery was exposed to wood dust during his time in his employment, which began in 1986 and continued until 2001, with a small gap towards the late 1990s.

He said Mr Montgomery did not always work in the workshop, where wood dust could be expected and he would wear a mask if he was likely to be preparing wood for extended periods of time.

Mr Thompson said: “If you work in a workshop you are bound to get a small amount of dust on you.

“I would not say covered in dust everyday.”

The inquest also heard from Malcolm Brandwood, from QKS, Stamford who employed Mr Montgomery to fit kitchens but he said exposure to wood dust in that job was “minimal”.

The link between wood dust and sinonasal carcinoma was also debated during the inquest.

Professor Anthony Seaton, an expert in the causation of occupational diseases, said about one in a million people are diagnosed with the condition each year, but this figure rises to one in 2,000 for those employed in woodwork. He described the likelihood of a link between Mr Montgomery’s condition and his trade as “overwhelming”.

Christopher Avery, a senior lecturer in cancer studies and elective medicine at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said a review published in 2010 based on a World Health Organisation document suggested there was not a link between wood dust and the type of cancer which led to Mr Montgomery’s death.

Coroner Gordon Ryall recorded a narrative verdict saying the cause of Mr Montgomery’s death were a pulmonary abscess and empyema, conditions affecting the lungs and sinonasal carcinoma, which had spread to the brain.

He said: “Mr Montgomery died from the consequences of a sinonasal carcinoma tumour and such tumours may be due to exposure to wood dust. Mr Montgomery was exposed to wood dust during his working career.”

A representative for Mr Thompson declined to comment after the inquest.

Call for greater awareness of rare form of cancer

THE widow of John Montgomery has called for greater awareness of the form of cancer which led to his death, after chances to diagnose it sooner were missed.

Mr Montgomery was first seen at Peterborough District Hospital in June 2008, but his condition was not diagnosed until February 2009.

Andrew Pfleiderer, a consultant in Peterborough City Hospital’s Ear, Nose and Throat department, told the inquest that the cancer “could and should” have been detected sooner, although he felt “the delay made no difference to his prognoses or eventual outcome”.

Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Montgomery was critical a potential link between her husband’s line of work and his symptoms had not been made sooner.

She said: “The medical profession need to be more aware so they ask the right questions.”

John Randall, medical director at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the trust accepted the diagnosis should have been made shortly after he first came to the hospital, rather than some six months later.

He added: “However, review of initial findings suggest that the cancer had already spread extensively and a cure was not possible.

“The coroner stated at the inquest that it is uncertain whether an earlier diagnosis would have altered the sad outcome.”

He said the trust would like to express its condolences to Mr Montgomery’s family and friends.

More information: Nasal and sinus cancer - NHS Choices