There is no particular way to get prepared for a diagnosis on Asbestos Lung cancer. Not until treatment commences, it can be quite challenging to understand the implications of the cancer. Expensive medical bills and uncertain prognosis are some of the challenges that come along with the treatment of this disease. Figuring out the best ways to plan for the future then becomes another side effect of the asbestos lung disease.
Financial resources are being made available to help patients living with this asbestos lung cancer take control of their medications, and also help make sure that their loved ones are taken care of during their time of treatment and beyond. So fortunately, these patients do not have to stress over these burdens on their own.
Many companies that were into the manufacture of asbestos products were aware of the health risks but failed to make it known to the people involved. This has led to the exposure of workers to the danger of developing deadly diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma, and asbestos lung cancer. In more recent times now, innocent people and victims of this cancerous disease are taking necessary legal actions to make sure that those companies involved pay for their negligence.
Connection between Lung cancer and Asbestos
For individuals who experienced the asbestos exposure, it takes quite a long time to start manifesting symptoms of any asbestos-related diseases. Even if it has been decades ago since you worked with these asbestos materials, your exposure could still get to result in an asbestos lung cancer or a similar diagnosis now.
Asbestos is a mineral material containing some cancerous fibers that occurs naturally in the earth which was used in a variety of household and industrial products. The microscopic fibers when released into the air and inhaled or ingested by individuals can easily get lodged in delicate tissues in and around the lungs over a long period of time. The microscopic asbestos fibers in turn may then cause cells in the affected organs of the body to become cancerous and begin to malfunction.
There is no level of exposure to asbestos that can be regarded as safe. Research has even shown that some people who currently suffer from asbestos lung cancer only had brief exposure to the fibers. Others were exposed on high levels to the asbestos on the job, but yet never developed any related respiratory asbestos condition. However, studies and research has shown that the risk of lung cancer increases by 4% for every year that a person was exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos Lung Cancer – Risk Factors
Individual who worked or served in companies the made use of asbestos materials on the job are at high risk of developing the lung cancer. This includes employees from a number of known trades such as milling, textile works, manufacturing, construction, and mining industries. Demolition workers, insulation installers, roofers, electrician, plumbers, shipbuilders and automotive mechanics may also have been exposed to these asbestos materials on the job.
However, for a disease like asbestos lung cancer, working in such environments as asbestos-related occupation is not the only risk factor involved. According to research by the National Cancer Institute, several other factors may increase the risk of developing asbestos diseases. They are:
- The dose or amount of asbestos exposure
- The shape, composition or size of the asbestos fibers
- Genetic and individual factors
- How often or long the exposure lasted
- The source of the asbestos exposure.
Family members, close friends, and acquaintances of these people that worked in asbestos companies also stand the risk for asbestos lung cancer through secondhand exposures. Patients are always advised to tell their doctor everything, including if they have lived with someone who has a history of asbestos exposure, so that it is not overlooked during examination or diagnosis.
Symptoms related with the Asbestos Lung Cancer
For a specialist, diagnosing of the asbestos lung cancer can be quite tricky. People may initially dismiss many of the symptoms as lingering effects of a minor infection or just cold, due to the fact that many of the symptoms are non-specific. The unfortunate result of this becomes that people end up not getting diagnosed with the asbestos cancer as they should until they get to later stages of the disease.
If any of these symptoms should show up, try as much as possible to contact a doctor. They are:
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Swelling in the neck or face
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Coughing up of blood
- Repeated cases of pneumonia or bronchitis
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Chronic cough
When with a physician, a patient should always mention any occupational history of exposure to asbestos. Regardless of the fact that cigarettes alone are not the only cause of lung cancer, patients should also report any tobacco history to their physicians. In the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers said that in 2013 enough evidence exists to say that lung cancer can be caused by asbestos exposure alone and nothing else.
Diagnosing of the Asbestos Lung Cancer
More treatment options and better prognosis can only be possible when there is a prompt and accurate diagnosis of the asbestos lung cancer. In order to verify the suspected cases of the disease, doctors make use of a variety of diagnostic methods, including:
- Biopsy – This is the examination of the lung and pleural tissue under a microscope. To look for asbestos fibers in the lungs, a doctor may recommend sputum cytology, bronchoscopy or other medical tests.
- Physical examination – a physician may be compelled to take a closer look at the respiratory system of a patient if features like weak breathing, swollen lymph or abnormal sounds in the lungs are noticed.
- Image testing – CT scans, MRIs, PET scans and X-rays may help to show the tumors that are in or around the lungs.
Types of Asbestos Lung Cancer
Based on its cell appearance, the Asbestos lung cancer may be categorized into two types. The most common form of the lung disease is the non-small-cell lung cancer. This type makes up about 80 – 85% of all cases of the lung cancer. On the other hand, although this type grows faster and spreads more quickly, the small-cell lung cancer is less common among patients.
Though the treatment approach is different, both of the types of this cancer have similar symptoms. Hence, the importance of a biopsy. In order to achieve the best prognosis, doctors need to identify the exact type of cells causing the patient’s case of asbestos lung cancer.
The type with the most treatment options available is the non-small-cell lung cancer. Doctors may suggest chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery or other types of care.
Unfortunately, for the small-cell lung cancer the options are more limited. Usually, the disease has already spread by the time it gets diagnosed to the patient. Because the tumors are usually too large, surgery is rarely an option. So instead, doctors usually go with the option of concurrent chemoradiation, where chemotherapy and radiation therapy are combined to produce better result. Researchers have shown that this option of combining therapies is the most effective at prolonging life for patients in such conditions.
Asbestos Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma
The mesothelioma, which is another type of asbestos-related malignant disease that occurs in the chest cavity, is not the same as the Asbestos Lung Cancer. Although they both share very similar symptoms, there are some key differences also, such as:
Location of the tumors: while the mesothelioma attacks the mesothelium, which is the thin protective tissue that surrounds the lungs, Asbestos lung cancer on the other hand originates inside of the lung.
Appearance of the tumors: for mesothelioma, the tumors are scattered, and eventually forms a sheath around the organ that is affected, while for the asbestos lung cancer the tumors are well defined and individualized masses.
Causes: An exposure to asbestos fibers is the only known cause of the Mesothelioma, but the Asbestos lung cancer is also linked to both asbestos exposure and other causes.
Period of Latency: Although the both disease conditions take many years to manifest, the Asbestos lung cancer disease appears to have a shorter latency period, with the symptoms showing up anywhere between 10 – 30 years after exposure to asbestos fibers. But for the Mesothelioma, it can take as long as 60 years for symptoms to manifest.
Differentiating the asbestos lung cancer from the mesothelioma is an important step for doctors to take, because the treatment plans may differ depending on which of the disease the patient has.
Asbestos Lung Cancer and Asbestosis
Another disease condition relating to Asbestos fibers that should not be mistaken for the Asbestos Lung Cancer is the Asbestosis. The both disease conditions can be caused by an exposure to asbestos, though the Asbestosis is a chronic and benign lung health condition that is characterized by scarring in the lungs.
The Asbestosis health condition is known to cause problems with breathing and other symptoms that are similar to that of the asbestos lung cancer, such as shortness of breath and a chronic cough. Studies over the years have shown that the asbestosis disease condition itself does not cause lung cancer, but patients who develop the asbestosis have a greater risk of developing a lung cancer over time.
Available Treatment for the Asbestos Lung Cancer
The Asbestos lung cancer is a very serious illness that has no universal course of treatment. Doctors and physicians have to decide the best treatment for a patient based on the kind of symptoms being experienced by the patient. This also includes evaluating the stage of the disease, the age of the patient, and how much of treatment the patient can actually withstand in the current state or condition.
The desires of such a patient also matters. This is because some patients in the late stages of the asbestos lung cancer prefer palliative care instead of being subjected to the harsh side effects of some more aggressive therapies.
Some of the possible treatment options for patients with the disease include:
Chemotherapy: Patients with the asbestos lung cancer disease may also go through chemotherapy even after surgery, or in a combination with radiation therapy. A doctor or physician may prescribe effective drugs to kill off the cells of the cancer.
Radiation Therapy: High-energy X-rays are used by oncologists to kill off asbestos lung cancer cells. The radiation helps to shrink, control or destroy the cells, and this may be used for patients who are not candidates for a cancer surgery, or generally as part of a multi-modal course of treatment.
Surgery: Based on the fact that the tumors of this asbestos lung cancer have clear boundaries, the removal of the mass and some other surrounding tissues may be a good option for a victim living with such disease. A doctor or physician may also recommend a Pneumonectomy or lobectomy.
Clinical trials: A doctor is allowed to suggest whether or not a patient is eligible for participation in any clinical trials. This is as the search for a permanent solution to the disease is still ongoing.
Targeted Drug Therapy: Just like the case of chemotherapy, here drugs are used to attack the cancer cells, but not to kill the cells. The targeted drugs attack the inner abnormalities of the cells of this cancer, while leaving the healthy cell alone. This can stop the multiplication by growth and division of the cancerous cells. This therapy is often used alongside with other Asbestos lung cancer treatments.
Immunotherapy: in an attempt to identify and kill off the cancer cells, doctors sometime use immunotherapy drugs to stimulate the immune system of the patient involved. This is because sometimes the immune system of an individual fails to recognize the asbestos lung cancer cells as foreign bodies.
Palliative care: Rather than fight for a cure, a patient in the end stages of this cancer disease may just decide to use a combination of these treatments to maintain comfort.