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Asbestos Diseases: Lung Cancer

Asbestos Diseases: Lung Cancer

Asbestos causes a great many diseases and illnesses. This only happens when asbestos is unmanaged though, and when loose asbestos fibres are inhaled. These fibres can go on to travel throughout the body and become lodged in organs and cavities, which can then lead to the growth of cancerous tumours.

Asbestos and lung cancer have been linked for many years now, and research is ongoing.

There are six different types of asbestos disease:

Asbestosis Pleural mesothelioma Peritoneal mesothelioma Testicular mesothelioma Pericardial mesothelioma Lung cancer

(Image courtesy of MesotheliomaLungs.org)

What is lung cancer?

Around a fifth of all cancer deaths are caused by lung cancer, making it the number one cause of cancer deaths in the UK. Asbestos cancer of the lung is a rare form of the disease and it differentiates from other forms as it is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres.

Asbestos lung cancer is caused when these fibres are breathed in and deposited in the lungs. Over a very long period of time (usually decades), the fibres can cause tissue damage and inflammation, which can damage the lungs’ capacity. They can also cause cancerous tumours to develop.

Smokers that are exposed to asbestos fibres are far more likely to develop some form of lung cancer.

Who can be diagnosed with lung cancer?

Both men and women can present with this kind of asbestos mesothelioma. Asbestos lung cancer can take between 30-35 years to fully develop, meaning those diagnosed with it are usually in later life.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Lung cancer is such a prevalent illness nowadays that a lot of research has been carried out into it, but it is still very difficult to spot the differences between ‘normal’ lung cancer and asbestos lung cancer.

For asbestos lung cancer to be present, the cancer must have taken at least 10 years to develop following exposure. Doctors will also measure the spread of asbestos fibres within the lungs during surgery.

The main lung cancer symptoms include:

Chest pain Persistent cough that produces blood Bronchitis Pneumonia Pain in the chest, shoulders or back Unexplained fatigue Swelling of the face and neck Shortness of breath Unexplained weight loss How is lung cancer diagnosed?

There are two different types of asbestos lung cancer – small cell and non-small cell.

Small cell lung cancer is very aggressive and is found in the centre of the chest, close to the bronchi. It spreads very quickly and displays fewer symptoms.

Non-small cell lung cancer is less aggressive and easier to treat, so it has a higher life expectancy rate.

The following tests may be carried out in order to diagnose either type:

CT scans Biopsies How is lung cancer treated?

Treatments for asbestos lung cancer are similar to those performed on ‘normal’ lung cancer patients. If the cancer is caught early enough, treatments can be carried out in order to prolong the patient’s life, otherwise palliative treatments may need to be considered instead.

The available treatments for lung cancer include:

Surgery Chemotherapy Radiotherapy What is the prognosis for lung cancer patients?

If asbestos lung cancer is caught early on it can be treated reasonably well. However, the life expectancy of asbestos lung cancer patients depends on the type of cancer they have.

Around 17 per cent of non-small cell lung cancer patients live for five or more years past diagnosis and treatment, as it is the less aggressive cancer. However, just 6 per cent of small cell lung cancer patients live past five years.

The content of this site is intended to inform, not to diagnose. If you believe that you may have symptoms similar to those experienced by lung cancer patients, Northern Insulation Contractors advises you to visit your GP immediately.

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