Asbestosis is what doctors call any “chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Asbestos fibers vary in size, and inhaling them will lead to different effects on where they could stay in the lungs, or eventually be expelled. Lungs cannot heal from asbestos exposure and could affect overall health in more severe cases. In general, when someone is diagnosed with asbestosis, treatment focuses on mitigating symptoms and monitoring for advanced progression of illness in the lungs.
Before the federal government regulated some asbestos and asbestos products in the 1970s, exposure to asbestos was fairly common, although symptoms might not have appeared until between 10 and 40 years later. That is why within the past couple of decades, cases of asbestos-related illnesses are on the rise.
About Asbestos-related Illnesses
Typically, you will not be screened for asbestos-related illnesses unless you have a known history of asbestos exposure. When asbestos regulation was first put into effect by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the risk of side effects from exposure to asbestos was only thought to affect men working in manual labor industries.
At-Risk Populations for Asbestosis
People who worked in the following industries in the 1970s are thought to be at risk for asbestosis, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Asbestos Miners
- Aircraft and auto mechanics
- Boiler operators
- Building construction workers
- Railroad workers
- Refinery and mill workers
- Shipyard workers
- Workers removing asbestos insulation
However, the Mayo Clinic also lists secondhand asbestos exposure as a risk for developing asbestosis. This means that anyone who lived with a person who formerly worked in one of the industries mentioned above may also be at risk, as well as people who lived close to asbestos construction sites or mines. In any place where asbestos particles are made airborne through activity like construction work, manual labor, and machinery, high asbestos exposure is a risk.
Diagnosing Asbestos-related Illnesses
According to the EPA, most health professionals will only make the link between asbestos exposure and symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses if a patient provides information about work history that would put them at a higher risk for asbestosis. To diagnose a suspected asbestos-related health condition, doctors may perform a “physical examination, chest x-ray and pulmonary function tests.” Sometimes, what a general practitioner can do for asbestos-related illnesses is limited, and may require the help of someone who specializes in asbestosis.
Doctors can use imaging technology like chest x-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scans to determine where unusual amounts of asbestos lies in your body, and potential procedures to alleviate your symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, a doctor might perform a Bronchoscopy or a Thoracentesis to get a closer look inside your airways, or remove excess fluids from your lungs.
Treatment Options for Asbestos-related Illnesses
Treatment options are limited for people who suffered exposure to asbestos to the point that it affects their health. If your lungs can heal from asbestos exposure, then chances are the exposure was not serious enough to cause symptoms. The Mayo Clinic says “Treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the disease, relieving symptoms and preventing complications.” Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes to aid in alleviating symptoms of asbestosis, like quitting smoking, and getting vaccines to lower your risk of lung infections.
For more progressive and degenerative diseases that asbestos exposure may cause, such as lung cancer or mesothelioma, treatment will focus on removing cancerous cells from the body. In some cases, a person with asbestos-related illness will qualify for a lung transplant, but proceeding with that depends on the expected outcome and the availability of organ transplant donors.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that begins in the linings of the lungs, heart, and stomach. It can be caused by a range of known cancer-causing agents, from asbestos, to radiation, and zeolites. Typically, people are not screened for mesothelioma unless they have a history of asbestos exposure.
Lung Cancer is one of the top fatal cancers in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Different from mesothelioma, lung cancer develops in the lung tissue, not in the pleural linings of the lungs.
In both mesothelioma and lung cancer, there are some treatment options like radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. However, the option to move forward with any treatment will vary from patient to patient. For anyone who inhaled asbestos and has a history of smoking cigarettes, it could be difficult to determine the exact cause of either type of cancer.
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Legal Representation for Asbestos Illnesses
If you unknowingly suffered exposure to asbestos or another toxic chemical that caused mesothelioma or lung cancer, you may be eligible for compensation. Facing the battle against serious, life-threatening diseases should not be done alone. Hiring a legal representative to defend your rights and seek a settlement on your behalf could relieve you of the excessive financial burden of asbestos-related illnesses.
Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today for a free consultation with a member of our team: (800) 794-0444