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Asbestos Cancer (Lung Cancer)

When it comes to asbestos-related cancer, it is important to understand that there are a few different types of cancer caused by asbestos exposure: asbestos-related lung cancer, and asbestos mesothelioma (of which there are different types, described here). The following is a description of both types of asbestos cancer. Other types of cancer can also be caused by asbestos exposure, so it is a good idea to seek professional medical help if you think you have been exposed.

Asbestos lung cancer is a type of cancer that often affects workers exposed to asbestos on the job, particularly those that smoke cigarettes. Three types of lung cancer can be caused by asbestos exposure: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small lung cancer (NSCLC), and a mix of both types. Nearly 80 percent of all lung cancers are of the NSCLC type.

Asbestos Lung Cancer Symptoms can include:

  • A newly developed cough that doesn’t go away
  • Changes in an existing chronic or “smoker’s” cough
  • Cough up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Hoarseness in the throat
  • Pain in your bones
  • Headache

Asbestos Lung Cancer Diagnosis will focus on diagnosing or ruling out this condition, as well and determining the stage, or progression, of the cancer. To diagnose asbestos lung cancer a doctor may:

  • Take a detailed medical history and perform a full physical examination
  • Take a Chest X-ray
  • Use a computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Perform a sputum cytology
  • Take tissue samples to run a biopsy of lung tissue

If asbestos lung cancer is suspected, the doctor will determine the stage of the asbestos-related disease using a CT, MRI, and/or PET scan.

Asbestos Lung Cancer Stages

The stages of asbestos lung cancer of the non-small cell variety are as follows:

  • Stage I: Cancer has invaded the underlying lung tissue but hasn't spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage II: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or invaded the chest wall or other local structures.
  • Stage IIIA: Cancer has spread from the lung to lymph nodes in center of the chest.
  • Stage IIIB: Cancer has spread locally to chest areas such as the heart, blood vessels, trachea and esophagus; or to lymph nodes in the area of the collarbone or the tissue that surrounds the lungs within the rib cage (pleura).
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, bones or brain.

Asbestos Lung Cancer Treatment often depends on the asbestos lung cancer stage and other factors, such as the patient’s age, overall health, and preferences. Treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted drug therapy, clinical trials, alternative/complimentary treatments, and palliative care, which is intended to support the patient but not cure the cancer.

Asbestos Lung Cancer Prognosis depends on a number of factors. The sooner asbestos lung cancer is detected, the better the chances of survival, though the factors contributing to a patient’s survival are more complex. It is best to speak with a doctor about your or your loved one’s specific prognosis. Survival rates can give you some idea of what you are looking at; but you must remember that these are general predictors and really don’t tell you the chances of you or your loved one dying from lung cancer.