An asbestos disease is an illness that is caused by asbestos exposure. There are several types of asbestos disease however the most common are mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

Asbestos diseases are receiving increased attention as the numbers of people with diseases that are directly traceable to asbestos exposure continue to rise, both in the U.S. and around the world. The “asbestos epidemic” is aptly named; it has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of individuals in the U.S. have developed an asbestos cancer such as:

  • Asbestosis — a lung disease that significantly reduces the capacity of the lungs to do their job
  • Lung cancer — both small-cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma Cancer — a less frequent but still deadly cancer of the mesothelium (a tissue inside the chest cavity)
  • Other cancers — e.g., gastrointestinal, colorectal, kidney, brain, bladder

Types of Asbestos Diseases

Asbestos, in its natural state, is not harmful to one’s health; however, when the mineral is broken down or disturbed, the strands of durable fibers separate and form a dust that can be easily ingested through the mouth or nose. Once the fibers are ingested, they embed themselves in the body’s vital organs. Over time, the durable fibers accumulate and cause severe irritation, which can eventually lead to the development of a debilitating, deadly illness.

While asbestos exposure can lead to the development of various cancers and other illnesses, the most common types of asbestos disease include:

  • Mesothelioma:  A rare and fatal cancer that attacks the protective lining of the lungs, heart or stomach. Mesothelioma is the only cancer that is directly related to asbestos. There are three different types of mesothelioma: pleural mesothelioma, which attacks the lining of the lungs; peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdominal cavity; pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the protective lining surrounding the heart.
  • Asbestosis: Asbestosis is the term used to describe a respiratory disorder caused by the scarring of lung tissue. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can cause irritation in the lungs, which can lead to inflammation. White blood cells react, attempting to break down the asbestos fibers, but are unsuccessful. This attempt causes other cells to grow, resulting in scar tissue build up. As the scar tissue builds up, the ability to breathe slowly diminishes.
  • Asbestos Caused Lung Cancer: Lung cancer is one of the most common asbestos diseases. Individuals exposed to asbestos over long periods of time have an increased risk of developing lung cancer, especially those who smoke tobacco.

Symptoms of Asbestos Disease

Asbestos diseases typically progress slowly and can take up to 50 years to develop. While most asbestos diseases share similar symptoms, following is a breakdown of the symptoms for each individual asbestos disease:

Mesothelioma

The only confirmed cause of mesothelioma cancer is asbestos exposure. It is a sad fact that approximately 2,500–3,000 people die from mesothelioma each year in the U.S. This cancer attacks the mesothelium, a thin and vulnerable tissue that lines part of the chest cavity, including the outside of the lungs and heart.

There are several sub-types of mesothelioma cancer, and they are all fatal. The onset for mesothelioma is quite long — from 10 to 60 years after the asbestos exposure. This explains in part the significant increase in the number of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer; the World War II years and the 1950s were rife with products that contained asbestos, a “miracle material” used in thousands of products in buildings (including homes and schools), ships (particularly U.S. Navy ships), and vehicles.

Although there are three different types of mesothelioma, affecting different vital organs, the most common symptoms seen in all mesothelioma patients include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic coughing
  • Fever, sweating
  • Weight loss, loss of appetite
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Fluid build up in the lungs, stomach or heart

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is particularly common among individuals who have worked in occupations that involved asbestos directly (such as in the mining and processing of asbestos) or indirectly (with products or procedures in which asbestos is present). Long-term exposure to asbestos can produce this severe respiratory disease, marked by great shortness of breath. The lungs have reacted to the inhalation of asbestos fibers with inflammation and scarring, reducing the total lung capacity (TLC).

The most common asbestosis symptoms include:

  • Chronic coughing, wheezing
  • Severe chest pain, tightness of chest
  • Shortness of breath, decrease in stamina

Lung Cancer

The fibers of which asbestos is composed are the initiators of lung cancer in many people. The fibers are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, and they are so light that they float suspended in the air- for hours or days, where they may be inhaled by people in the area. It is entirely possible to inhale asbestos cancer fibers without knowing that you have done so. The fibers lodge themselves in the lungs, and the body reacts with a cancer-producing process that cannot be reversed.

The most common symptoms of asbestos caused lung cancer include:

  • Anemia
  • Coughing, hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath, change in breathing patterns
  • Chronis chest pain
  • Fatigue, weight loss

What to Do If You Have an Asbestos Disease

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, you should contact an asbestos attorney who will thoroughly evaluate your situation and determine who is responsible for your asbestos exposure. An experienced asbestos attorney will ensure every responsible party is held accountable for your illness and will fight to help you recover mesothelioma compensation for your losses.

If you are one of the unfortunate millions of people who have been affected by an asbestos cancer disease, learn all that you can about what to expect and what you can do. Contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers for more information today.

Asbestos Cancer Diseases (english) / Enfermedades del Asbesto (spanish)