Mesothelioma usually takes between 15 and 50 years to develop, although this can vary depending on the type of cancer. Lung cancer associated with exposure to asbestos usually does not develop until at least 15 years after exposure. Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, usually takes 30 or more years to develop.
While lung cancer and mesothelioma are the two types of cancer that are most commonly associated with asbestos exposure, there are other types of cancer that studies have linked to asbestos exposure as well, including cancers of the rectum, colon, throat, and stomach. How long it takes to get cancer from exposure to asbestos varies.
Medical Conditions That Can Be Caused by Asbestos Exposure
There are several factors that can impact whether someone is injured as a result of exposure to asbestos, such as how often and how long they were exposed, how much asbestos was in the air, and whether they are already facing a lung condition. Some of the most common medical conditions that are caused by asbestos exposure include:
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos over a prolonged period of time. When someone breathes in the fibers over time, some of them become lodged in the lungs, causing scarring and making it difficult to breathe. This lung disease usually occurs between 10 and 20 years after the patient’s initial exposure to asbestos, and the main symptoms are chronic cough and shortness of breath. While the severity of the symptoms can vary, there is unfortunately no treatment for this condition.
The pleura is the membrane that wraps around the outside of the lungs, lining the inside of the chest cavity. While there are several different kinds of pleural diseases, pleural effusion, specifically, causes a buildup of fluid in the pleural cavity.
Asbestos exposure can also cause pleural plaques, pleuritis, or diffuse pleural thickening.
Lung cancer is another condition that can be caused by exposure to asbestos, especially large amounts of asbestos or exposure over a prolonged period of time. Lung cancer occurs when a tumor blocks the air passages. The risk of lung cancer is even higher for workers who were exposed to asbestos who also smoke.
While it is uncommon, exposure to asbestos has been closely linked with the development of a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. This type of cancer affects the linings of the pleura and abdomen. Mesothelioma usually does not develop until 30 or more years after the initial exposure to asbestos, and the risk does not drop over time. Smoking does not increase the likelihood of developing mesothelioma, unlike lung cancer.
Indicators of an Asbestos-Related Disease
How long it takes to potentially get cancer from asbestos exposure varies from person to person. The symptoms of an asbestos-related injury or disease may not appear for many decades after the initial exposure. Even then, some of the conditions that are caused by asbestos do not show any symptoms. That said, it is important to check with your doctor if you develop symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath
- A cough that will not go away and gets worse over time
- Blood coughed up from the lungs
- Difficulty swallowing
- Tightening in the chest or chest pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained fatigue
- Swelling in the face or neck
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How Asbestos Causes Injuries
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that consists of fibers that are soft and flexible, while also resistant to heat and corrosion. While they can be highly useful in cement, plastic, and other materials to make them stronger, it is also highly toxic.
When you are exposed to high levels of the material over long periods of time, the fibers that are airborne can become lodged in your lungs. The fibers can cause irritation and scarring of the lung tissue. This, in turn, causes your lungs to become stiffer, making it difficult to breathe.
Steps to Take after Being Exposed to Asbestos
If you were exposed to asbestos, you should first evaluate the level of exposure. If you were exposed to a small amount for only a brief time, for example, your risk of developing a disease is likely low. Your risk is likely much higher, though, if you were exposed to larger amounts or over a prolonged period of time.
Some steps you should consider taking are:
- Stopping smoking: Studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of developing lung cancer
- Getting regular checkups: Regular checkups can make it easier for your physician to monitor you for signs of asbestos-related diseases
- Acting right away if you see a symptom related to asbestos: Talk to your doctor right away if you see symptoms that could be related to your exposure
If you or someone you love has developed cancer or a non-cancerous condition related to asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 217-6099.