Asbestos exposure has been linked to fatal lung diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Exposure occurs most often when the material is handled during mining or processing. Companies have known about the dangers of asbestos exposure since the 1940s, but neglected to warn employees or provide protective gear.
Because of their negligence, many companies have knowingly placed not only their employees, but also their employees’ families in danger of developing serious medical conditions. Inadequately protected workers would carry the asbestos fibers home to their families on their clothes. As these workers would dust off or wash their clothes, the fibers would become airborne again and put their families in the same risk.
Asbestos Cancer: Signs & Testing
Asbestos cancer is known as mesothelioma. It may take up to 50 years to show symptoms, but it is important to know what mesothelioma is, symptoms to look for, and what your doctor can do to test it.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare kind of lung cancer found in the mesothelium, which is a protective membrane that covers most internal organs, including the lungs and heart. This rare lung cancer is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, usually found in areas where mining or processing takes place.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Many ailments may be a sign of this rare lung cancer. Shortness of breath and pain under your ribs may be an indicator. This is caused by fluid swelling up around the lungs. Other indicators include unexplained weight loss and pain, swelling, or lumps in the abdominal area. These symptoms may not necessarily be the result of asbestos cancer, but you should still check with your doctor if any of these are present.
How Your Doctor Can Test Symptoms for Mesothelioma
- General physical examination: This will likely be the first thing your doctor does. It will include a chest X-ray and blood work.
- Complete Blood Count (CBC): If your doctor believes you have indications of asbestos cancer, he or she will likely run a CBC. This is also known as a FBC (full blood count) and it assesses the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A CBC will also test for the percentage of hemoglobin, a protein that caries oxygen to the lungs, in red blood cells. Finally, your doctor may also test for sedimentation rate, which is the rate at which red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube. Infections and cancer cause the red blood cells to drop faster than healthy red blood cells.
- Biopsy: Your doctor may then order a biopsy. Tissue from the lungs or abdomen can be extracted with a small incision and insertion of a special instrument. This sample will then sent to a lab and examined for asbestos cancer cells.
Common Questions About Asbestos-Related Cancer
What is staging?
Staging is the process of determining if the asbestos cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Staging tests can include further X-rays, ultrasound, endoscopic ultrasound, and MRIs. These tests allow physicians to see if or where your asbestos cancer has spread, which determines to which stage the cancer has progressed.
How does asbestos cancer spread?
Asbestos cancer can spread to healthy tissue from the malignant cells. Another method for the spread of cancer cells is through lymphatic fluids, which then cause malignancy of lymph nodes. Blood can also carry cancer cells. Asbestos cancer can enter into veins and capillary walls and use the blood to travel to other parts of the body.
What are the current treatment options?
Asbestos cancer treatment options depend on several factors, which include the stage of the cancer, the overall health and age of the individual, and the feasibility to remove tumors surgically. Individuals should consult with their physicians about treatment options. Treatments may be 'standard,' which is defined as being generally accepted, widely used and appropriate for the type of cancer you have. Other options may include clinical trials testing the effectiveness of a new treatment or an improvement to an existing treatment. Individuals should discuss all treatment options with their doctor to determine what is best for each case of asbestos cancer.
Who is responsible?
Asbestos cancer has been found to occur in people who have either worked around or been exposed to asbestos fibers floating in the air. Oftentimes, these airborne asbestos fibers were the result of negligence by a company who allowed these fibers to be free-floating in the air. Supplying proper protective gear and adherence to OSHA and EPA asbestos regulations is the responsibility of any employer where asbestos exposure is a risk. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, companies began to learn about the connection between cancer in the lung and asbestos exposure. Many of these companies elected to neither inform nor protect their workers. Asbestos cancer can take up to 50 years to produce symptoms. After 50 years, many people have moved on to other jobs and companies' ownership can change hands many times, making it more difficult to find the individuals liable.
Information Regarding Asbestosis
Asbestosis is a serious lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Asbestosis is characterized by shortness of breath during exertion, chest pain, coughing, and tightness in the chest. Asbestosis is brought on by breathing airborne asbestos dust, fibers, or particles. Most cases take 5 to 10 years after exposure for asbestosis to become apparent, but it can take as long as 20.
Generally, workers exposed to the fibers are at greatest risk; however their families can also be at risk. Workers can carry the fibers home on their clothing, which then exposes family members to the risk of asbestosis.
To date, there is no known cure for asbestosis. You can only try to prevent further damage by removing yourself from exposure. There are a number of treatments available to help ease the symptoms including medication. In severe cases, a lung transplant may be needed. Fibers from asbestos are light and can travel through the air. People who work around these fibers, or are exposed to them in some other way, can inhale them into their lungs. These fibers cause scar tissue to build up, which leads to abnormal growth. Asbestosis can range from mild to severe, severity generally depends on factors such as length of exposure and the amount inhaled.
Regulations to Prevent Asbestosis
Asbestosis is not as common of a risk today as it was in the past. Strict government regulations are now in place to protect people from airborne fibers. Until the late 1970s, however, regulations requiring companies to protect their workers and families from exposure were not in place. Companies were aware of the potential danger of asbestosis since the 1940s. Since it can take 20 years or more for symptoms of asbestosis to appear, you or your loved ones may have been exposed long ago at a company that is now under new ownership or defunct. Because companies are bought and sold every day, those suffering from asbestosis need an experienced team of lawyers to help them find the responsible parties in order to pay the best medical care possible.
Contact an Asbestos Lawyer From Our Firm Today!
You need lawyers who are experienced, driven, and understand the depth of your injury. Arnold & Itkin LLP understands first and foremost the health concerns, but we also understand you may have even lost your job and are worried about how to pay for the cost of treatment. Our attorneys will make sure you can meet your financial obligations, receive the medical care you need, and find those responsible for your illness. Call us today or fill out the free case review form for your free consultation. We never charge a fee until we win your case.