With over 220,000 new cases every year, lung cancer is the second-most common cancer in the United States, and the leading cause of cancer deaths yearly. However, asbestos is considered responsible for a small portion of all lung cancer cases. Contact our attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 307-3113 if you believe that your lung cancer diagnosis was due to exposure to asbestos. We work on a contingency-fee-basis, so you do not pay unless we win.
Exposure to Asbestos and Lung Cancer
When microscopic fibers of asbestos are inhaled and settle into the lungs or the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testes, they can lay dormant for decades. The fibers can cause scarring and inflammation in these areas of the body. After decades, the process begins to create a cellular response that is cancerous.
One of the largest questions that scientists had was how these asbestos fibers, cause asbestos-related lung cancer. Theoretically, a dead cell should not be able to grow anything. However, research determined that when asbestos actually kills a cell in the lung, a very specific process occurs.
The process is known as programmed cell necrosis. It occurs when the dead cell releases a very specific protein molecule called high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1). The release of this protein molecule starts a unique inflammatory reaction that can start the growth of cancerous cells, which then form cancerous tumors. Interestingly, scientists discovered that people exposed to asbestos in their lifetime had higher levels of this protein in their serum.
Lung Cancer Asbestos Symptoms
You have a risk of developing lung cancer if you worked around asbestos or asbestos-related products. Smoking increases the risk of developing asbestos lung cancer. The most common symptoms of asbestos lung cancer are shortness of breath, unexplained wheezing, coughing up blood, hoarseness, cough, swallowing problems, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
Always let your doctor know that you have a history of asbestos exposure so that they can consider that as they determine what tests to give you. Your doctor may want to do a lung biopsy or other tests to determine if there are any fibers of asbestos in your lungs. If you have a history of exposure, consider getting tested or examined yearly for asbestos lung cancer. The sooner it is discovered, the better treatment options are available.
For a free asbestos case review, contact our attorneys with Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 307-3113 to see if you can receive compensation for your injury.
Treatments for Asbestos-Caused Lung Cancer
Asbestos lung cancer treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapies, immunotherapy, and possible clinical trials.
What Type of Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma?
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), all types of asbestos cause mesothelioma.
Types of Asbestos
The term asbestos describes a group of six fibrous minerals that occur naturally. These needle-like and thin fibers have proved useful in several different construction and fireproofing materials, and many different industries consistently used asbestos in their products for decades.
Because these fibers are flexible and soft, they have excellent resistance to corrosion, heat, and electricity. However, their durability proves dangerous to humans, as the inhalation of these thin fibers results in their settlement in tissue throughout the body, where they remain permanently trapped for decades. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986, legally recognized six different types of asbestos. These types of asbestos fall into two categories: Amphibole and serpentine.
There are five different types of amphibole asbestos, including:
All of these types of asbestos have jagged, straight shapes, and they typically repel water.
There is only one type of serpentine asbestos called chrysotile, which is also known as “white asbestos.” This type of asbestos is different due to the fact that the fibers are not straight or jagged, but rather curly in nature. This type of asbestos accounts for 95% of all of the asbestos in the world. Some of the chrysotile-containing products commonly known Include:
Brake pads for vehicles
- Certain types of adhesives
- Vinyl tiles
- Roofing materials
All Types of Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma
While scientists may classify asbestos into different categories, all types of asbestos are dangerous.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the EPA all list all types of asbestos as cancer-causing agents that have the potential to develop into mesothelioma when inhaled. All of the different types of asbestos may ultimately cause asbestosis, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, and other serious medical conditions.
Symptoms of Asbestos Lung Cancer
All types of asbestos can result in the development of mesothelioma. If you worked or lived near asbestos mines, asbestos factories, or asbestos-related products, you may have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma over your lifetime. Unfortunately, once exposed, your risk of developing mesothelioma does not diminish over time.
As the asbestos particles remain in a person’s lungs, or other tissue surrounding the heart, abdomen, or testes, they can stay dormant for decades until some unknown cause results in their irritation, which develops into mutated cancer cells known as mesothelioma.
If you believe you have any reason to suspect that you may develop mesothelioma due to your exposure to asbestos, make sure to always carefully monitor yourself for any symptoms that may indicate the development of mesothelioma, including:
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- Swallowing challenges (dysphagia)
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Chest pain
- Other unexpected and unexplainable symptoms
Visit with a healthcare provider as soon as possible in order to receive a proper medical evaluation and diagnosis. If you are genuinely concerned about possibly developing mesothelioma, there are now some tests that you may qualify for to determine if you have mesothelioma prior to the development of symptoms. As it is always better for your prognosis to catch mesothelioma as quickly as possible, never hesitate to visit your doctor or medical professional for their opinion regarding your possibility of developing this aggressive cancer.
Types of Mesothelioma
Different types of mesothelioma can develop throughout a person’s body. In the majority of cases, mesothelioma develops in the lungs, or in the lining of the lungs. However, mesothelioma may also develop in the peritoneal (abdomen) area, the lining of the heart, or lining of the testes. All of these types of mesothelioma occur due to asbestos exposure.
In addition, mesothelioma can spread to other distant organs in the body in the later stages of cancer.
Which Type of Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma?
Chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite are types of asbestos that can cause mesothelioma. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), asbestos fibers occur naturally in rocks and soil. They are microscopic, much thinner than human hairs, and lighter than air. Asbestos fibers have high tensile strength and are highly resistant to heat, corrosion, and water.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, most are exhaled, but some can become lodged in the linings that surround the lungs, abdomen, or heart. They can gradually cause scarring, inflammation, and genetic changes that can eventually lead to mesothelioma.
Shapes of Asbestos Fibers
Asbestos fibers are categorized by their shape. Serpentine fibers are long and curly and may be easier for the body to eliminate than other types of fibers. Serpentine fibers are used in the vast majority of commercial asbestos products, according to the McGill Journal of Medicine.
Amphibole asbestos fibers are short and straight. They have a sharp and rigid spindle shape, which makes them more likely than serpentine fibers to become lodged in tissues and organs and to cause an individual to develop mesothelioma.
Types of Asbestos
The only known type of serpentine asbestos fiber is chrysotile, which is used in construction materials and vehicle parts. These curly white fibers can be removed from the body more easily than other forms of asbestos. Since chrysotile is so commonly used in commercial applications, though, it is responsible for most mesothelioma cases.
Amosite and crocidolite asbestos have amphibole fibers. Crocidolite is blue, and amosite is brown. Both are used in construction materials and vehicle parts, and both have a brittle, needle-like structure that makes it difficult for them to be removed from the respiratory tract. Amosite and crocidolite have been used on ships and in spray-on insulation, and both can cause mesothelioma.
How Can People Be Exposed to Asbestos?
Some employees came into contact with asbestos on the job. Construction workers, mechanics, shipbuilders, firefighters, and members of the military were the groups at the greatest risk.
In some cases, employees carried asbestos fibers home on their bodies and clothing and exposed their family members to the carcinogenic substance. Asbestos has also been used in a wide range of popular consumer goods. A significant number of people with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos in that way.
Several people may have suffered exposure to asbestos over a long period of time and remained unaware of the danger. Since mesothelioma develops gradually and patients often do not experience symptoms of the illness until decades after they were exposed to asbestos, a diagnosis of mesothelioma often comes as a shock.
People sometimes think they have a minor medical issue and suddenly learn that they have a rare form of cancer with a low chance of survival.
What Causes Mesothelioma Other Than Asbestos?
Other than asbestos, mesothelioma causes include exposure to mineral fibers, radiation, inflammation, and genetic predisposition. A majority of U.S. women and a significant percentage of U.S. men with mesothelioma likely did not develop the illness due to asbestos exposure. That is especially true when it comes to younger patients.
Potential Causes of Mesothelioma Other Than Asbestos
Although mesothelioma is most commonly associated with asbestos, individuals who were not exposed to asbestos can develop the illness. The National Organization for Rare Disorders stated that exposure to erionite, a volcanic mineral, can cause individuals to develop mesothelioma. Erionite can be found in some parts of the United States and in gravel quarries. It is often used for road development projects.
According to a study published in Archives of Pathology, fluoro-edenite, a mineral fiber that has been used in construction and road paving, can cause DNA damage. Once DNA has been damaged, it can cause cells to grow out of control, which can lead to cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified fluoro-edenite as a human carcinogen.
Radiation that is used to treat cancer can damage the DNA in cells, which can cause tumors to form. According to the American Cancer Society, in some cases, individuals who underwent radiation treatment for one form of cancer later developed mesothelioma. Radiation technologists have also developed mesothelioma after being exposed to radiation repeatedly on the job.
There have been anecdotal reports of mesothelioma in patients who had chronic serosal inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s disease. It is unclear how chronic serosal inflammation may contribute to mesothelioma.
Some individuals have inherited genetic mutations that make them more susceptible to mesothelioma than the general population. That may explain why some people develop the cancer after very limited exposure to environmental factors that cause it, while others who are exposed to known causes of mesothelioma repeatedly over a long period of time never develop the illness. In cases involving a genetic mutation, patients develop mesothelioma at younger ages. The cancer does not predominantly affect one gender or one part of the body.
In cases where asbestos is not related to the mesothelioma, those cases are known as idiopathic or spontaneous mesothelioma. Spontaneous mesothelioma is reported more in women than in men.
How Mesothelioma Affects the Body
Mesothelioma affects the cells of the mesothelium, the membrane that protects the lungs, heart, and abdominal organs. Pleural mesothelioma affects the lining that surrounds the lungs. Patients with pleural mesothelioma may experience symptoms such as accumulation of fluid between the lungs and chest cavity, chest pain, shortness of breath, and a persistent cough.
Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the abdominal lining, may cause abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. Pericardial mesothelioma is cancer in the lining around the heart. That form of the illness may produce symptoms such as low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
Like other forms of cancer, mesothelioma can metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body via the bloodstream or lymph nodes. Once cancer has metastasized, it is more difficult to treat.
How Mesothelioma Can Be Diagnosed and Treated
Doctors typically use multiple tests to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma and to figure out the stage of the illness, or how much it has spread. Physicians may order imaging tests, biopsies, blood tests, and lung function tests.
Mesothelioma is often diagnosed when it has already reached an advanced stage. At that point, many patients have a poor prognosis and survive only around a year. If the illness is at a less advanced stage, it may be treated with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Doctors often recommend using multiple approaches simultaneously.
Radiation and chemicals other than asbestos, such as erionite, are some of the primary non-asbestos causes of mesothelioma, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Mesothelioma is a terminal illness associated with cancerous growth in the body’s epithelial lining. There are roughly 43,000 mesothelioma deaths annually worldwide, per the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 2,597 Mesothelioma-linked deaths for the United States in 2015. These sources report a steady climb in the number of cases of mesothelioma, as the latency period after suffering exposure to such risk factors can last years or decades.
Mesothelioma Unrelated to Asbestos Exposure
Mesothelioma refers to cancerous growth in the epithelial lining between and around the body’s organs. Of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, roughly one in five had not suffered exposure to asbestos, according to the WHO.
Pollutants Different Than Asbestos
Other than asbestos, causes of mesothelioma include zeolites. It is possible for small pollutants, which are different from asbestos, to enter the body and cause health issues. For example, researchers from the National Cancer Institute consider it likely that carbon nanotubes, if inhaled, would behave similarly to asbestos in the body.
Erionite and Mesothelioma
Erionite is a natural material that exists in parts of the United States, and researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that it may increase the risk of contracting mesothelioma. Erionite is composed of tiny particles of rock, which look like cloudy chalk and can become stuck in the body if inhaled. As those tiny rock particles sit in the body, they damage the DNA of the area, leading to malignant mesothelioma.
Researchers discovered outcroppings of naturally-occurring erionite in various states of the western US. If you traveled to the western US and inhaled naturally-occurring erionite dust, you may be at increased risk of contracting mesothelioma.
Radiation and Mesothelioma
Radiation may also account for some people’s mesothelioma diagnosis, even if they did not suffer exposure to asbestos. Here are some ways people might be exposed to radiation:
- Radiation therapy for pre-existing cancer
- Receiving CT scans
- Undergoing X-Ray scans
- Occupational exposure
Mesothelioma sometimes results from radioactivity, and the damage that they can do to the body’s DNA warrants precaution. Radioactive particles and waves are so small that they penetrate deep into the cell nucleus.
Earth’s volcanic activity is powered by radioactivity inside the planet, and stars also emit radioactive particles that hit our planet’s surface. But the natural environment does not typically produce enough radiation to damage our cells beyond their reparable rate.
Radiation becomes a problem when too much occurs in a small amount of time, and the body’s DNA suffers severe damage in the affected area or areas. By passing through the cell’s protective layers due to their tiny size, radioactive particles collide with the DNA molecules, knocking out some genetic information. With too much radiation, the body can easily develop malignant mesothelioma.
Why Asbestos Was Once Popular
Asbestos is a durable, tiny, heat-resistant fiber that damages soft tissue in the body upon inhalation or other contact. The body has no way of breaking down asbestos, and due to the small size of the fibers, they travel through the bloodstream. After a thorough medical analysis, research from the WHO shows that some mesothelioma patients do not have any history of possible asbestos exposure.
To combat the risk of fires, asbestos was introduced as a popular flame-resistant insulation for buildings, offices, and homes in the 20th century. Asbestos was widely used in the middle of the 20th century as retail building material for insulation, siding, and roofing.
If you were wondering what causes mesothelioma other than asbestos, you are not alone. Pintas & Mullins Law Firm provides free legal consultations where you can share your information and determine your legal rights.
Is Asbestos the Only Cause of Mesothelioma?
Asbestos is not the only cause of mesothelioma. However, exposure to it is the primary risk factor in about 80% of cases, according to the American Cancer Society. Mesothelioma patients might have been exposed to high levels of asbestos at work, but there have been incidents stemming from second-hand exposure, too. People living with asbestos-exposed workers also have an increased risk of mesothelioma.
Contrary to popular belief, asbestos is not the sole culprit behind the fatal condition. In rare cases, patients who had no known contact with the mineral still developed mesothelioma.
Other Possible Causes of Mesothelioma
Many people who think asbestos is the only cause of mesothelioma are unaware of the following ways you could end up with the disease:
Zeolite is a natural mineral with a similar chemical composition to asbestos. Erionite is one, and it is abundant in some parts of Turkey with high cases of mesothelioma. Prolonged exposure to it may have caused an unusual number of incidents in those areas, and some areas in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
Exposure to high doses of radiation also puts you at risk for mesothelioma. There were reported incidents of cancer patients developing the disease after receiving radiation treatment to the chest or abdomen.
Genetics can also put you at risk for mesothelioma. The mutation of gene BAP1 is linked to the development of mesothelioma and is hereditary. You may be one of the few who are genetically predisposed to the disease.
How Asbestos Exposure Leads to Mesothelioma
Most incidences of mesothelioma stem from prolonged exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral. Before its restricted use in the U.S., asbestos was mined and utilized in large industries, including construction, shipbuilding, and automotive. It is durable, can resist fire, heat, and chemicals, and does not conduct electricity.
The only problem with asbestos is its microscopic fibers, and they only cause harm when the asbestos is destroyed or otherwise tampered with, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When released into the air, they are easily inhaled or swallowed. Once they settle in the lining of the lungs or stomach, they irritate and cause inflammation or scarring that may result in mesothelioma. Other long-term asbestos-related problems include asbestosis—the scarring of lung tissue—and lung cancer.
Apart from prolonged exposure, your inherited conditions, environment, and overall health are other factors that increase the risk of developing mesothelioma.
The Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma takes time to develop—about 20 to 50 years after initial asbestos exposure. By the time most patients get diagnosed, it has already progressed to an advanced stage, at which point, the prognosis is grim.
Symptoms of mesothelioma in the lungs, also known as pleural mesothelioma, according to Mayo Clinic, include chest pain, shortness of breath, persistent, painful coughing, and unusual lumps around the chest area. If the cancer cells have spread to other areas, there will be swelling of the face, neck, or arms or difficulties in swallowing.
With peritoneal mesothelioma or the type that occurs in the abdomen, you’ll notice pain and swelling around the abdominal area. A common warning sign of both is sudden and unexplainable weight loss, and it is often mistaken for other diseases or types of cancer. Visit your doctor if you experience these symptoms and have been exposed to asbestos.
What You Should Do When You Had Previous Asbestos Exposure
When you had prolonged exposure to asbestos because of work or living arrangements, it might have severe long-term health effects, including mesothelioma. However, keep in mind that other uncontrollable factors also increase your vulnerability for such a highly fatal disease, even without prior exposure to the mineral.
If you believe that you or your loved one’s mesothelioma was due to third-party negligence on controlling asbestos exposure, know that you could be entitled to financial compensation. You might be able to recover a financial award for costs related to your disease, including:
- Hospital bills
- Treatment costs
- Prescription costs
- Transportation costs
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral and burial expenses (in wrongful death cases)
Can Mesothelioma Be Caused By Something Other than Asbestos?
Most malignant mesothelioma with an identified cause occurs because of exposure to asbestos. Most victims are men who worked in industries with regular, high levels of asbestos exposure. Occasionally, though, a patient gets a mesothelioma diagnosis with no known asbestos exposure. When this happens, it may be possible to identify possible exposure, or there may be another cause of the cancer.
If you’re wondering, “Can mesothelioma be caused by something other than asbestos?” The answer is yes. In young patients who have little chance of having inhaled asbestos, there is likely another cause that triggered the growth of malignant mesothelioma. There are many possible causes and contributing factors.
Mesothelioma in Young People Without Asbestos Exposure
Research shows that in patients under the age of 35, mesothelioma affects both sexes equally, and there is a much lower chance of previous asbestos exposure than in older patients. There are, however, two factors that appear to be common regarding malignant mesothelioma in young patients. They are:
Some young mesothelioma patients previously underwent cancer treatment for another type of cancer. This treatment included therapeutic radiation to the chest or abdomen. While the risk of developing mesothelioma following this type of treatment appears to be low, it may be a causative factor in some cases.
Family History of Breast Cancer
A family history of breast cancer is a common factor among many people who develop malignant mesothelioma before the age of 35. Researchers continue to look into this link and the possible role it could play.
Research Continues to Identify Possible Causative Factors for Mesothelioma
There are also additional factors that may play a role in the development of mesothelioma. First, there are other minerals similar to asbestos, known as zeolites, that can cause this type of cancer. The most common is erionite. While no longer mined or used for civil engineering or construction projects, this mineral is common in certain areas of Turkey, as well as in Oregon, North Dakota, and the American Southwest.
Other possible causes of mesothelioma are related to genetic changes that occur in the individual or that are passed down to the person. This includes a mutation in the BAP1 gene. This mutation is rare, but there seems to be a link between those who have it and the development of malignant mesothelioma.
Researchers continue to look at other possible factors that could cause or contribute to the development of mesothelioma. One current theory points to infection with the simian virus 40 (SV40) that could increase the risk.
Can You Get Mesothelioma Without Asbestos Exposure?
You can get mesothelioma without asbestos exposure. However, a mesothelioma diagnosis without prior exposure to asbestos rarely occurs.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos
Typically, inhaling asbestos causes mesothelioma. Upon absorption into the body, the fibers from asbestos can settle into the lining of different areas and remain dormant for decades. At some point, the fibers irritate the cells of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testes, and cancerous cells begin to form. When the cancerous cells begin to form, they spread rapidly. Doctors typically find mesothelioma once it metastasizes.
Mesothelioma Without Asbestos Exposure
While it is rare, some diagnoses of mesothelioma occur without any known exposure to asbestos. Scientists have no concrete explanations for the reasons that some patients receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma without any exposure to asbestos. However, other minerals outside of asbestos can cause mesothelioma. When a patient receives a mesothelioma diagnosis, despite having no exposure to asbestos, it may be due to the following:
According to the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences Bi-Monthly, peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for 20 to 33% of all mesothelioma cases. There is a subset of patients with a peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosis who develop the illness without any asbestos exposure. However, the article suggests that risk factors for developing mesothelioma without asbestos exposure may include radiation exposure.
Erionite, a volcanic mineral, has a chemical relation to asbestos. A connection between erionite and mesothelioma was found in case patients in Cappadocia, a city in Turkey.
In the case of patients in Turkey, a mesothelioma diagnosis did not indicate a connection between genetic factors. Researchers believe that exposure to erionite can cause patients to develop mesothelioma. You can find erionite in the United States. North Dakota, some western states, gravel quarries, and road construction sites contain erionite.
If you developed mesothelioma and lived or worked in these locations, your mesothelioma may be due to erionite exposure.
Simian Virus 40 (SV40)
Some scientists believe that some cases of mesothelioma were related to a virus known as the simian virus 40. Recent evidence does not necessarily support a link between mesothelioma and simian virus 40. New evidence shows that the original research, based on the polymerase chain reaction technique, had a risk of false positives and that new studies are necessary.
In some cases of mesothelioma, experts cannot find a known trace to explain its development. These rare cases are idiopathic (unknown cause) or spontaneous. It is possible that these individuals experienced an exposure to asbestos unknowingly, or that they were around radiation or other elements such as erionite, also without their knowledge.
Contact an Asbestos Lawyer
Many companies knew that their products had a known carcinogen and failed to warn their workers or the public. These companies should be held responsible for the injuries they have caused to the people who received a diagnosis of asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma cancer.
If your doctor diagnosed you with asbestos lung cancer, you may be able to receive compensation for your medical bills, future treatments, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contact our asbestos lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 307-3113. We can set up a free consultation to discuss your legal options regarding your asbestos lung cancer diagnosis.