Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer & Asbestosis
Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.
Mesothelioma primarily affects the cells that are found in the sac lining of the chest or the abdomen. If diagnosed in its late stages, mesothelioma can be found in pleural form (both the chest and abdomen). Symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest irritation and fluid accumulation in the lungs. Mesothelioma is a very serious diagnosis, but the life expectancy and quality of life is dependent on you. Early diagnosis, coupled with good treatment, can increase both life expectancy and quality of life.
Malignant mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose, mostly due to the rarity of the disease. Not many physicians and hospitals can make an appropriate diagnosis without further testing. Only after a biopsy (the removal of affected tissues) can physicians make a definitive diagnosis. Although a needle biopsy is sufficient in some cases, a vast majority must undergo surgical biopsy in order to obtain the affected tissue sample.
Typical treatment plans for those diagnosed with mesothelioma include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Some of these treatment procedures can have side effects such as hair loss and nausea. However, they still do not provide a complete cure. These treatments may prolong life, but other treatments and medications are also used to help alleviate pain.
New studies have begun in hopes of finding a better treatment for mesothelioma. These studies test for highly effective medications and treatment procedures. An immense amount of time, money and efforts are invested into these clinical trials. Physicians, patients and cancer centers are all working together to run these clinical trials, carefully exploring different avenues of treatment.
Lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos exposure. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, it attaches itself to the lining of the bronchi (the tubes that divide into the trachea and windpipes). The process of cell regeneration is replaced by cell mutation, a process that causes the growth and spreading of cancer cells. Those exposed to asbestos are seven times more likely of contracting lung cancer than the average man or woman. Those who smoke and are exposed to asbestos have a 50 to 90 percent greater chance of getting lung cancer. As with mesothelioma, asbestos-induced lung cancer can be asymptomatic and symptoms are never detected. When symptoms of lung cancer begins to show, it can include a persistent cough, fatigue, loss of appetite, consistent chest pain, and repeated episodes of pneumonia and bronchitis. These symptoms are present in only 15 percent of asbestos-induced lung cancer cases. Approximately 85 percent of asbestos-induced lung cancer cases never show any symptoms.
Asbestosis is when the lung's tissues are infected by asbestos fibers, causing affected tissues to scar around the lung's lower lobes. Once inhaled, the asbestos particles trigger the body's immune system. The scar tissues caused by asbestosis will prevent the lungs from expanding and as a result, causes pain and tightness when breathing. In addition to the pain felt when breathing, asbestosis will prevent normal gas exchanges in the lungs. Over time, the immune system's fight against the asbestosis could fail as the scarring gets worse, leading to an increase in loss of lung function.
Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath, chest pain, crackling chest sounds, and fingernail abnormalities. If symptoms and medical history are properly reported to the physician, a chest X-Ray or CT scan is typically used to diagnose asbestosis. In some cases, affected lung tissues are removed to test. After tests are complete, physicians are more able to properly diagnose those who may be suffering from asbestosis.