Lung cancer and asbestosis differ in their effects on people’s bodies and their requirements for treatment. While the former constitutes a form of cancer, the latter classifies as a disease afflicting the lungs.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease resulting from prolonged exposure to the naturally occurring, yet toxic, substance asbestos. Since asbestos resists corrosion and heat, manufacturers frequently used it in building materials, such as insulation, cement, or flooring tiles. While health departments strictly regulate asbestos today, many people went to work in environments exposed to asbestos before the federal government began regulating its use in the 1970s. Construction workers, asbestos miners, and even firefighters sustained asbestos exposure during the courses of their careers.
Asbestosis can develop when someone inhales asbestos fibers that later lodge themselves into the lung tissue, causing irritation and scarring. The lung scarring eventually leads to stiffness of the lungs, which impacts the person’s ability to take full, deep breaths.
A few symptoms of asbestosis are:
- Shortness of breath
- A lingering dry cough
- Fingertips or toes that appear rounder and wider than normal
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Loss of appetite and accompanying weight loss
Though several of these symptoms may also accompany a case of lung cancer, they may occur in people who suffer from asbestosis alone. One symptom specific to asbestosis is the clubbing of the nails and fingers. When this happens, the nails become softer, wider, and rounder as a result of the body not getting enough oxygen.
Understanding Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, research suggests that inhaling asbestos fibers causes a heightened risk of lung cancer. Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the lungs grow excessively. Lung cancer may spread to other parts of the body, such as other organs or the lymph nodes. As the abnormal cells grow, they form tumors that interfere with the lung’s ability to function properly.
Symptoms of lung cancer may include:
- A lingering cough that will not go away
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Unexpected and unexplained weight loss
- Bone pain
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, a doctor can help you determine if you have lung cancer or asbestosis through diagnostic testing.
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Different Treatments Used for Lung Cancer and Asbestosis
A notable difference exists between the way doctors treat lung cancer and asbestosis.
Treatment for asbestosis focuses on slowing the progression of the disease and relieving symptoms to increase the patient’s comfort level.
Asbestos-related lung cancers, on the other hand, require conventional cancer treatments. Surgery, followed by chemotherapy, represents the normal standard of care for patients suffering from asbestos-related lung cancer.
Latency periods also dictate different treatment approaches for these two health conditions. Asbestosis usually appears anywhere between 10 and 40 years after someone experiences exposure to asbestos. Most cases of asbestos-related lung cancers do not occur until at least 13 years after the initial exposure.
Testing for Asbestos-Related Conditions
A physician may conduct several tests if you suspect you suffer from an asbestos-related condition, including:
- Physical exams: During the physical, the doctor will listen to your lungs to determine if they sound healthy. They will, specifically, listen for any crackling sounds when you are inhaling.
- Imaging tests: If your doctor believes this necessary, they will likely perform an imaging test, such as a chest X-ray or CT scan, to see images of your lungs in detail.
- Pulmonary function tests: Doctors order these tests to determine how much air your lungs can hold and the amount of airflow that moves in and out of your lungs as you breathe.
- Diagnostic procedures: In some situations, your doctor may perform tests like a bronchoscopy or thoracentesis and, possibly, extract tissue or fluid for testing.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from asbestosis or an asbestos-related lung cancer, you should see your physician right away for an evaluation.
If you have already received a diagnosis of asbestos-related lung cancer or asbestosis, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Our team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm wants to help you pursue compensation for your injuries. For a free, no-risk consultation, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 794-0444.