Other Health Effects of Asbestos
Besides mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer always linked to asbestos, a number of other diseases can also be caused by asbestos exposure, such as asbestos lung cancer. To put the alarming tragedy of asbestos in perspective, we pulled data from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund that analyzed government mortality records and epidemiological studies: “Ten thousand Americans die each year — a rate approaching 30 deaths per day — from diseases caused by asbestos. Asbestos kills thousands more people than skin cancer each year, and nearly the number that are slain in assaults with firearms.”
Asbestos Related Lung Cancer
Each year, lung cancer claims more lives than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. Despite this, lung cancer is frequently under-funded and misunderstood.
Though smoking is a known cause of lung cancer, new studies have shown that a growing number of lung cancer cases are likely linked to environmental contaminants, such as asbestos. The 2008-2009 President’s Cancer Panel’s annual report focused on the connection between environmental toxins and cancer, the rising number of environmentally-related cancers and the need for further investigation of environmental toxins that cause cancer. Most importantly, the report calls for stronger regulations for environmental contaminants, full disclosure to workers and the public about what they are being exposed to, safer alternatives and a greater understanding among medical professionals about occupational and environmental attributers to cancer in order to more accurately diagnose patients.
Lung cancer has often been stereotyped as the “smoking cancer”, the “you-had-it-coming” cancer. But this is far from the truth. There has been a recent rise in the number of new lung cancer diagnoses in nonsmokers, particularly in women. Nearly 200 women die each day from lung cancer, most within just one year of diagnosis. Many of these women never smoked.
How do I know that my lung cancer was caused by asbestos?
If you have a history of heavy asbestos exposure, it’s likely that your lung cancer is connected to that exposure. However, if you’re not sure, watch out for these other indicators of asbestos exposure. They include:
- Pleural Plaque – deposits of fibrous tissue that develop in the chest cavity from asbestos exposure and are usually found along the membrane that lines the chest wall. Pleural plaques are the most common symptom of asbestos exposure and are benign with little impact on a person’s health.
- Pleural Thickening – thickening of the pleural wall as a result of scarring or inflammation in the pleura, which usually makes breathing more difficult.
- Interstitial Fibrosis – lung disease that occurs when scar tissue forms in the space between the lungs’ air sacs. Symptoms include difficulty breathing and dry cough.
If you were exposed to asbestos and smoked, that does not mean that smoking was completely responsible for your lung cancer. Keep in mind: the fact that you smoked does not prevent you from seeking legal compensation for lung cancer related to asbestos. Our asbestos lawyers are happy to answer any questions that you may have regarding your diagnosis.
Asbestosis is a benign (non-cancerous) disease caused by exposure to asbestos fibers that become lodged in the lungs. The lungs try to protect the body from these foreign bodies by building up scar tissue around them, which over time diminishes the lung’s capacity for oxygen.
Asbestosis is a progressive disease: as the scarring of the lungs increases, the lungs’ vital capacity decreases. Asbestosis can cause severe shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, and heart problems. Asbestosis may also affect people with asbestos-caused cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, although asbestosis does not develop into these or any other kind of cancer.
Asbestosis is what’s called a latent disease. This means that asbestosis develops many years, even decades, after a person’s initial exposure to asbestos. The latency period for asbestosis is usually at least 15 years after a person’s initial exposure, but can be shorter or longer.
Asbestos is a “dose-response” disease. That means that the more asbestos a person is exposed to, the higher his or her risk for developing asbestosis.
There is no known treatment or cure for asbestosis. People with advanced asbestosis may require oxygen respirators to help them breathe.
Asbestos-related pleural disease is a common disease caused by asbestos exposure. Pleural disease consists of “plaques” on or thickening of the lining of the lung. Pleural disease may also take the form of a pleural “effusion,” which is the build-up of fluid on the lung lining. Like asbestosis and other forms of asbestos-related diseases, pleural disease is a latent condition. This means that pleural disease usually does not develop until several years after a person’s initial exposure to asbestos.
Other Asbestos-Related Cancers
- Colorectal Cancer – Colon cancer is a cancer of the digestive or gastrointestinal (“GI”) tract. Asbestos exposure can be a cause of colon cancer when asbestos fibers are ingested through the mouth and lodge in the GI tract, eventually causing the disease.
- Esophageal Cancer – Cancer of the esophagus may be attributed to asbestos exposure. The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Asbestos fibers ingested through the mouth may be swallowed and lodge in the esophagus, eventually causing the disease.
- Laryngeal Cancer – Asbestos exposure has been identified as a cause of cancer of the larynx. Asbestos fibers breathed through the mouth can lodge in the larynx, eventually causing the disease.
- Stomach Cancer – Asbestos may cause stomach cancer when asbestos fibers ingested through the mouth are swallowed and lodge in the stomach, eventually causing the disease.