Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can only be positively identified with a special microscope. In years past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them. It has also been used to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.
After conducting studies and diagnosing the health conditions of those workers who were exposed to asbestos in factories, shipyards and mines, scientists and medical professionals now know that breathing in high amounts of asbestos fibers can result in asbestos lung cancer.
About asbestos lung cancer
Most asbestos lung cancers develops in the lining of the bronchi, the tubes into which your windpipe (trachea) divides. But this type of lung cancer can also start in other areas such as your:
- Bronchioles, the small branches of your bronchi
- Alveoli, the air sacs of your lungs
While lung cancer may take years, even decades to develop, once it occurs, your cancer cells will break away and quickly spread to other parts of your body.
The two most common types of lung cancer are:
- Small cell lung cancer: The cancer cells appear small and round; accounts for 20 percent of all lung cancers.
- Non-small cell lung cancer: The cancer cells are larger; accounts for nearly 80 percent of lung cancers.
Occasionally, one type of cancer will have features of both and is identified as “mixed small cell/large cell.”
Asymptomatic at first
One thing that makes this cancer so deadly is that the early stages of asbestos lung cancer often do not produce any symptoms. Therefore diagnosis of this cancer usually occurs once the disease has spread and the chance for survival is slim.
The symptoms of asbestos lung cancer (present in a mere 15 percent of cases) include:
- Persistent coughing
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
- Bloody or rust-colored spit
But these symptoms are tricky, as they can also signify other illnesses.
Suspicion of cancer
If you believe that you may have asbestos lung cancer, see a doctor immediately. The disease can be detected through imaging tests, biopsies, and taking phlegm (spit) samples.
Most people have been exposed to small amounts of asbestos in their daily lives and will not develop health problems. However, if asbestos is disturbed, it can release fibers that are inhaled into the lungs. These stubborn fibers may remain in the body for years and years, increasing the risk of cancer. The risk is highest among those who work directly with asbestos or in an asbestos-filled environment and have breathed in asbestos dust daily for a significant period of time.
If you live in Maryland or the Washington, D.C. area and you believe you or a loved one may have asbestos lung cancer, please contact experienced asbestos cancer attorneys at Brown | Gould | Kiely, LLP for a free initial consultation. The law office of Brown | Gould | Kiely, LLP is committed to your case and will ensure that the people responsible for your illness are held accountable.
Click here to learn about the differences between lung cancer and mesothelioma.