While mesothelioma may be the most widely known consequence of asbestos exposure, it’s not the only one. Inhaling asbestos particles can trigger other deadly diseases, including asbestosis and lung cancer.
And it does not end there. Exposure to airborne asbestos fibers increases the risk of stomach and larynx cancer, too. While government regulation of asbestos has gotten strict since the dangers of the material became widely known in the 1970s, those rules aren’t always followed, and lives are often needlessly put at risk. Moreover, because it can take decades for asbestos-related diseases to develop, asbestos exposure from years ago can still exact a deadly price today.
Responsible for nearly 30 percent of all cancer deaths, lung cancer is, in absolute numbers, the world's most deadly cancer. While smoking is a big risk factor for the disease, lesser known -- but all too significant -- is the danger of asbestos exposure. Indeed, asbestos heightens the risk of lung cancer, and individuals who both smoke and were exposed to asbestos have a particularly high risk for contracting the disease.
While about a quarter of all lung cancer victims show no symptoms of the disease before its diagnosis, many others do experience warning signs. These can include:
- Bronchitis or pneumonia
- Chest pain
- Coughing and/or wheezing
- Hoarse voice
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
As these symptoms can also indicate less severe conditions, patients often put off medical treatment, losing valuable treatment time in the process. Like mesothelioma, lung cancer can metastasize, spreading to other parts of the body, negatively impacting treatment options, and a patient's prognosis. For individuals with a history of asbestos exposure, even the mildest symptom must be taken seriously, and discussed with a doctor.
If lung cancer -- or the possibility of the disease -- is suspected, the first test performed is typically a chest x-ray. In many lung cancer cases, one or more nodules, or even a large mass, will be seen. At that point, a CT scan or MRI of the chest -- which can show the lungs in three dimensions -- can render further information, helping doctors determine the stage, or severity, of the cancer. These tests can also show if tumors have spread into the lymph nodes or other organs. A biopsy -- extraction and examination of a small piece of tumor tissue -- will also be performed. By examining the cells under a microscope, a pathologist can home in on the cancer type and severity -- as well as the patient's outlook. Blood tests and bone scans are also commonly performed. Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment options can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and fluid removal.
Asbestos exposure can also lead to asbestosis, a serious respiratory disease that can cause severe shortness of breath and an increased risk of certain cancerous conditions, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Like mesothelioma, asbestosis is triggered by asbestos particles that are inhaled and embedded in the lungs, and can take years -- even decades -- to develop (indeed, many asbestosis patients are well into their 70s when their disease is diagnosed). Patients typically suffer scarring in the lung that hinders its ability to expand and contract, making breathing difficult and painful.
Most asbestosis is caused by intense or long-term asbestos exposure, and many cases are seen among workers who were regularly involved in the mining, manufacturing, removal, or handling of asbestos. Symptoms -- which usually do not appear for years after asbestos exposure -- can include:
- Chest pain
- Cough (and even coughing up blood)
- Fluid buildup in lungs
- High-blood pressure and/or congestive heart disease
- Hoarse voice
- Respiratory infection
- Shortness of breath (from moderate to severe)
- Swelling of fingers and/or other extremities
- Unexplained weight loss
Asbestosis is usually diagnosed using tests similar to those used in detecting lung cancer. These include: X-rays, CT scans, and blood tests. Other tests might be conducted to analyze pulmonary function, or how efficiently the lungs are working. While, like mesothelioma, there is no cure for asbestosis, prompt and careful treatment can slow the disease's progression and relieve symptoms. Oxygen therapy is often necessary to relieve shortness of breath, and because patients are at a heightened risk for mesothelioma and other deadly cancers, they must be regularly monitored, and tested, for these diseases.
Get Legal Help for Asbestos Related Diseases
If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, asbestosis or another asbestos-related disease, contact an attorney with experience in these cases, like the lawyers at Cooney & Conway. They can help explain what your rights are -- and what legal options you may have. A cure may still be elusive, but compensation can be obtained -- with the right legal counsel.
Contact the mesothelioma and asbestos related diseases litigation specialists at Cooney & Conway today toll free at 800-322-5573 for a free consultation to discuss you and your family’s short and long-term options for you and your family.
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