Symptoms Of Asbestos Lung Cancer

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Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral that, during the twentieth century, was used widely in construction, shipbuilding, insulation, and the manufacture of household products.

Because of its durable qualities it is flame and heat retardant, chemical resistant, and a good insulator it was used widely for over a hundred years before it was banned in 1989 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It was used in fiberboard walling, pipe insulation, fireproof blankets, gaskets, and lawn furniture, as well as many other household products. By the late eighties, however, health concerns outweighed the benefits, and the EPA restricted its use, allowing it only in strictly regulated trace amounts in the future.

Most of those who contract asbestos-related cancer do so from exposure working with it at construction sites, factories, or in mines. Tragically, the cancer rates of their families are higher as well, as asbestos was spread when workers returned home from work at night, with the microscopic fibers in their hair and on their clothes.

While the vast majority of lung cancers are associated with cigarette smoke, it is possible to develop lung cancer as a result of over-exposure to asbestos. The two most common types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer (SCLC, accounts for around 20% of all lung cancers) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC, accounts for 80%). In patients with SCLC, cancer cells are small and round, whereas patients with NSCLC will have larger cancer cells. In rare cases, individuals with asbestos lung cancer may have both types. This type of lung cancer is called "mixed small cell/large cell cancer."

Most asbestos-related cases of lung cancer have long latency periods, with symptoms of the disease failing to appear for years or even decades. Symptoms of an asbestos-related disease, however, might include the following: bloody or rust-colored phlegm, chest pain, hoarseness, persistent cough, chest pain, and weight loss. Other later stage symptoms may include: back pain, shortness of breath, weakness, nausea, fever, loss of appetite, swelling of the face and arms, muscle weakness, sensory loss, and pleural effusions (abnormal accumulation of fluid between the lungs and chest wall). It is important to note that these symptoms are also common to other diseases.

If you think you might show these symptoms, or have been exposed to asbestos in the past, visit a doctor for a full examination along with the appropriate tests. Your doctor might take phlegm tests, a tissue sample or biopsy, or use a variety of imaging techniques to detect asbestos lung cancer.

Because of the difficulty of detecting asbestos-related lung disease, treatment is often limited. However, if caught early, asbestos lung cancer is treatable. Depending on the type of lung cancer, several treatment options may be employed individually or combined. Treatment options include: chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy, radiation, and surgery.

Surgery is the most direct way to destroy malignant cells. Often, part or all of the cancerous lung is removed; however, if the cells have spread too far, surgery may not be the best option. Radiation therapy is less invasive than surgery, and is usually used in conjunction with other treatment methods. Chemotherapy is also used, as new drugs are being developed to better fight cancerous cells.

If you were exposed to asbestos while on the job, you may be able to bring a suit against your employer to be compensated for your illness and any losses you sustained because of it. Corporations who knowingly withhold information about the safety of the workplace from their employees may be liable for consequences of illnesses caused by on-site work. You can collect medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs associated with your illness, as well as any punitive damages a judge might award.


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