There are many types of lung cancer and many causes for them. Specific types of lung cancer have been directly associated with asbestos exposure and there is typically asbestosis in these cases. Unfortunately, lung cancer can develop 20 or more years after initial asbestos exposure, making it hard to trace at times. According to the American Cancer Society, there are approximately 235,000 new cancer's each year in the United States, and approximately 130,000 deaths from lung cancer.
According to the Mayo Clinic, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It is widely accepted by medical experts that asbestos exposure in conjunction with cigarette smoking can increase the risk of lung cancer exponentially, with studies showing that an individual who both smoked and worked with asbestos is 50-90 times more likely than the general population to develop lung cancer. Only 19% of people with lung cancer survive for 5 years after diagnosis.
A smoker who was exposed to asbestos is five times more likely to develop lung cancer than a smoker who was not exposed to asbestos, and studies also show that 1 in 5 people who both smoked and worked with asbestos will pass away from lung cancer.
The likelihood of developing lung cancer after asbestos exposure is heightened more so in individuals who have smoked in their lifetime. Roughly a quarter of all lung cancer victims don't show symptoms before they are diagnosed, but all others do. The symptoms they experience (and that you should look out for if you're at risk of asbestos-related lung cancer) can include:
- Chest pains
- Coughing and wheezing
- A hoarse voice
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
While these symptoms may also indicate less severe conditions, it's important to see a doctor right away if you are experiencing any combination of them so that you don't lose valuable treatment time in the event that you are diagnosed with lung cancer.
Cigarette smokers who are exposed to asbestos are entitled to compensation for their damages.
Inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in many studies of asbestos-exposed workers. This increased risk is seen with all forms of asbestos (there is no “safe” type of asbestos in terms of lung cancer risk). In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the higher the risk of lung cancer. Most cases of lung cancer in asbestos workers occur at least 15 years after first exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos Exposure and Lung Cancer
How is asbestos-related lung cancer detected?
Individuals who have been exposed (or suspect they have been exposed) to asbestos fibers on the job, through the environment, or at home via a family contact should inform their doctor about their exposure history and whether or not they experience any symptoms. The symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer may not become apparent for many decades after the exposure. It is particularly important to check with a doctor if any of the following symptoms develop:
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
- A persistent cough that gets worse over time
- Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up from the lungs
- Pain or tightening in the chest
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swelling of the neck or face
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Fatigue or anemia
A lung biopsy is the only legally reliable test to confirm a diagnosis of lung cancer and is essential to support a legal case for compensation. It is important to note that this procedure cannot determine how much asbestos an individual may have been exposed to or whether lung cancer will develop in the future.
What factors affect the risk of developing asbestos-related lung cancer?
Several factors can help to determine how asbestos exposure affects an individual, including:
- Dose (how much asbestos an individual was exposed to)
- Duration (how long an individual was exposed)
- Size, shape, and chemical makeup of the asbestos fibers
- Source of the exposure
- Individual risk factors, such as smoking and pre-existing lung disease
- Genetic factors
Lung Cancer Versus Mesothelioma
Asbestos-related lung cancer and Mesothelioma are two different types of cancer, but both are caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos lung cancer attacks the lung tissue itself. It can come in the form of small-cell lung cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer, oat-cell lung cancer, and other cell types. Mesothelioma attacks the lining of the lungs (the pleura), the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum), or the lining of the heart (pericardium). Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Lung cancer can be caused by asbestos alone or in conjunction with tobacco exposure.
Symptoms and treatment for both asbestos-related diseases may be similar. However, it is important to have a doctor who specializes in asbestos cancers to determine your best treatment options.
To this day, men and women are still discovering they were exposed to asbestos and are, consequently, victims of lung cancer and other asbestos-related illnesses. If you think you may have been exposed to asbestos, keep an eye on your health and symptoms. If you develop symptoms and receive a diagnosis, in order to have a case for a claim, you will need to provide proof that an asbestos company is responsible for your diagnosis.
As soon as you receive a diagnosis that confirms your asbestos-exposure and you have proof that an asbestos company is responsible, you will want to secure an asbestos lawyer to help you get the financial compensation that could cover your medical bills, long-term care, etc. There are statutes of limitations set on these types of claims, which means you will need to file as soon as possible to ensure you receive compensation. Our lawyers at Serling & Abramson, PC can help you compile all evidence and paperwork you need and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve for what you've endured.
If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer and think you may have been exposed to asbestos, fill out the contact form below to speak with Michigan’s First and Finest asbestos attorneys.