Chances of Lung Cancer Increased from Asbestos Exposure

Decades ago, many people were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. From railroad workers and construction workers to military personnel and others, inhaling asbestos fibers resulted in cancers such as mesothelioma. Unfortunately, by the time most people had their symptoms diagnosed, the damage was too extensive to make most treatments effective. However, it is clear that as more research has been done, the chances of contracting lung cancer are increased substantially as a result of asbestos exposure.

Leading Cause of Death

Within the United States, lung cancer is the most common cancer that results in death. According to statistics, cancer of the lungs kills more people each year than cancers of the prostate, colon, and breast combined. In fact, cancer of the lungs that is linked to asbestos kills an estimated 6,000 people in the United States each year.

Decades to Develop

When most people think of cancer, they mistakenly believe it is a disease that happens very rapidly. However, when it comes to cancer of the lungs linked to exposure to asbestos, it can be anything but quick. In many cases, it can take anywhere from 15 to as many as 35 years for the cancer to develop. Yet once the cancer does develop, it often only takes several months for it to spread and metastasize throughout a person’s body. As a result, it is one of the most difficult types of cancer to treat effectively, making early diagnosis critical in these situations.

How Asbestos Causes Cancer of Lungs?

When a person deals with asbestos exposure over the course of many years, small microscopic fibers are inhaled and become lodged in lung tissue. Over the course of time, these fibers begin to cause cellular and genetic damage, eventually leading to the formation of cancer. As for the most common risk factors, these include not only the intensity and length of time a person was exposed to asbestos, but also such areas as genetics, a person’s overall health, and whether or not they smoke.

Asbestos-Exposed Smokers

For those individuals who smoked and were also in jobs that had high levels of asbestos exposure, the risk of getting lung cancer has always been much higher. The major reason for this is the fact that as a person continues to smoke over the years, their lungs eventually weaken, making it more difficult for the lungs to expel asbestos fibers. Due to these high-risk factors, it is recommended smokers with a known history of exposure to asbestos receive annual cancer screenings.

Symptoms of Asbestos-Related Cancer of Lungs

Whether a person develops cancer of the lungs primarily from smoking or through repeated exposure to asbestos, the symptoms are virtually the same. The most common signs a problem exists include persistent coughing, fatigue and loss of appetite, hoarseness or wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain or discomfort. But in most cases, once a person begins to show these symptoms, the cancer has already been present for some time and is in its later stages, making it far more difficult to treat.

Getting a Proper Diagnosis

Since this type of asbestos-related cancer can spread and metastasize quickly, it is crucial to have it diagnosed as quickly as possible. To do so, doctors use a variety of methods. Most common are imaging scans such as x-rays and CT scans. Should doctors find areas on the lungs that appear suspicious, they then use a biopsy to examine the lung tissue and make a diagnosis.

Treatment Options

Once cancer of the lungs that is linked to exposure to asbestos is confirmed, patients may have several treatment options available to them, all of which depend on the cancer’s stage of development. For most patients, surgery is the best option if the cancer is detected early enough. If the cancer is more advanced, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can be used in an effort to kill cancer cells and also limit the growth of the cancer throughout the body.

Survival Rates

While survival rates for many types of cancer have increased dramatically over the years, that cannot be said for those patients who are diagnosed with cancer of the lungs. For those whose cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos, it is estimated that as many as 50 percent die within one year of being diagnosed with the disease. Also, statistics show that only 18 percent of these individuals live longer than five years after their initial diagnosis, making it one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

Robert SteinbergChances of Lung Cancer Increased from Asbestos Exposure