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Asbestos Related Lung Cancer

This web site has focused on mesothelioma. Not every asbestos-related lung cancer, however, is a mesothelioma. Other thoracic carcinomas, such as adenocarcinoma, are also known to be caused by exposure to asbestos.

The connection between asbestos exposure and lung cancer was noted as early as 1925, and confirmed over the next 70 years by many epidemiologic studies of asbestos-exposed workers. The four main types of commercially used asbestos, chrysotile, amosite, anthophyllite, and mixtures containing crocidolite, have all been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. About one in seven people who suffer from asbestosis, a lung disease resulting from exposure to asbestos, eventually develop lung cancer.

There is a relationship between cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure in causing lung cancer. Individuals occupationally exposed to asbestos who smoke face a much higher risk than those who do not smoke. According to the National Cancer Institute, evidence suggests that asbestos-exposed workers who quit smoking can reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by 50% within five years of quitting.
 

Relationships Between Smoking and Lung Cancer

A great deal of attention has been paid to the relationship between smoking and lung cancer. Indeed, many people presume a causal relationship. It is therefore important to understand that while smoking is certainly a potential cause of lung cancer, it is not the sole cause of lung cancer in humans. Statistics have shown that cigarette smoking alone increases the risk of lung cancer by a factor of 10 or so; heavy asbestos exposure alone increases the risk of lung cancer by a factor of 5 or so; and the combination of the two independent carcinogens increases the risk factor by about 50 times.

Thus, you do not merely add the risks posed by asbestos to the risks posed by cigarette smoking. The combination of asbestos and smoking multiplies the risk by an unquantifiable, but significantly greater, factor. This relationship is what is referred to as the "synergistic effect" of smoking and asbestos exposure. In short, one plus one does not equal two-it equals five or more.

 

What Are The Clinical Signs of Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer?

In general, the clinical features of asbestos-related lung cancer depends upon the state of the tumor when detected. Early detection enhances the prospect of surgical care. Symptoms can include the following:

  • Cough
  • Chest pain (usually in later stage)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest x-ray detection of new mass. A tumor may not be visible on a chest x-ray until it is at least 1-0 cm in diameter.
  • In its late stages, typical symptoms, signs and syndromes of advanced carcinoma emerge.

Management of an asbestos-related lung cancer depends largely on the staging of the tumor. Early diagnosis and surgical resections of the tumor increase the survival rate. The presence of severe associated asbestosis, however, can affect surgical intervention. Additionally, radiation and chemotherapy may be helpful in the overall therapeutic program.

 

Where Do I Go From Here?

After diagnosis, it is important to understand your treatment options. Your doctor or oncologist will provide you with information on the treatments that are available to you.

It is also important to know about your legal rights. If you have mesothelioma, or any other asbestos-related disease, you were most likely exposed to asbestos. Many of the manufacturers of asbestos insulation products knew for decades that asbestos was hazardous, yet made a business decision not to warn people of those hazards. As a result, you may have a right of recovery against those manufacturers, which can help defray the costs of treatment and provide compensation for your pain and suffering.

 

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