An asbestos disease is an illness that is caused by asbestos exposure due to inhalation. As a result, the lungs and/or pleura are typically affected when a person has an asbestos disease. There are several types of asbestos diseases; however, the most common are mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. If you suspect that you may have asbestos lung cancer or one of the other diseases, it must be properly diagnosed by a physician.
In the U.S. and around the world, the number of people with diseases that are directly traceable to asbestos exposure continues to rise. As a result, asbestos diseases are receiving an increased amount of attention. The “asbestos epidemic” is aptly named, as it has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of individuals in the U.S. have developed some form of asbestos cancer. Asbestos-related cancers include:
- Asbestosis: Asbestosis is a type of lung disease that significantly reduces the capacity of the lungs to do their job.
- Lung Cancer: Asbestos lung cancer includes both small-cell and non-small-cell lung cancer.
- Mesothelioma Cancer: This is a less-frequent, but still deadly, cancer of the mesothelium (a tissue inside the chest cavity).
- Other Cancers: Exposure to asbestos may result in a number of other types of cancer, including gastrointestinal, colorectal, kidney, brain, and bladder cancers.
Types of Asbestos Diseases
In its natural state, asbestos 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 is 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.
As noted, asbestos exposure can lead to the development of various cancers and other illnesses. We have briefly outlined the most common types of asbestos disease, which are:
- Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal cancer that attacks the protective lining of the lungs, heart, or stomach. Despite the rarity of this illness, the National Cancer Institute states that it is also the most common type of cancer caused by exposure 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; and 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 buildup. 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, the following is a breakdown of the symptoms for each individual asbestos disease:
Mesothelioma is one of the most lethal asbestos-related diseases. 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, occurring 10 to 60 years after the asbestos exposure. This may to some extent explain the significant increase in the number of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, as the World War II years and the 1950s were rife with products that contained asbestos. Considered a “miracle material,” it was used in thousands of products, such as buildings (including homes and schools), ships (particularly U.S. Navy ships), and vehicles.
Although there are three different types of mesothelioma that affect different vital organs, the most common symptoms seen in all mesothelioma patients include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic coughing
- Fever and sweating
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Fluid buildup in the lungs, stomach, or heart
Asbestosis is an asbestos disease that is particularly common among individuals who have worked in occupations that involved exposure to asbestos either 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, which is marked by severe 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 and wheezing
- Severe chest pain and tightness of the chest
- Shortness of breath and decrease in stamina
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 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:
- Coughing and hoarseness
- Shortness of breath or change in breathing patterns
- Chronic chest pain
- Weight loss
What to Do If You Have an Asbestos Disease
Diseases caused by asbestos can have a significant impact on the quality and span of one’s life. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, you should contact an asbestos attorney. A lawyer will thoroughly evaluate your situation and determine who is responsible for your asbestos exposure. An experienced asbestos attorney will ensure that 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 illness such as asbestos cancer, hiring an attorney is just one of your crucial concerns. It is also important that you learn all that you can about what to expect, what you can do, and what your treatment options are. Contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers for more information today.