Asbestos Cancer

Asbestos cancer is a common term used by some people when referring to mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is the type of cancer most frequently associated with exposure to asbestos. The malignant form of asbestos cancer is a serious and terminal form of cancer that can affect any of three areas of your body containing tissue known as mesothelium.

The mesothelium is a thin layer of tissue that surrounds many of your organs and lines your chest and abdominal cavities. Your mesothelium allows your internal organs to slide smoothly inside your body without causing irritation. The mesothelium that surrounds your chest cavity is the pleura, and asbestos cancer in this region is called pleural mesothelioma. The mesothelium protecting your abdomen is the peritoneum, and asbestos cancer there is called peritoneal mesothelioma. The last form of mesothelioma is pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the mesothelium called the heart sac.

What is Asbestos?

The term “asbestos cancer” is used occasionally to refer to mesothelioma because it is caused by the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral mined from the Earth for a number of industrial and commercial applications. It has been in used for thousands of years, but full-scale mining operations did not begin until the late 19th century.

Asbestos is prized for its natural properties, which include resistance to heat, resistance to electricity and the ability to weave the fibers into a type of fabric. The material has been heavily used as insulation in buildings throughout the world, and it is also a major component of many building materials, including tiles, adhesives and cement.

In the 1920s, doctors began to notice that asbestos exposure was linked to an illness that was named asbestosis. In the following decade, it was discovered that asbestos was causing a form of cancer that we now call mesothelioma. Since the 1970s, asbestos use has been highly regulated by governments throughout the world. Some nations have banned its use, but the United States continues to allow asbestos in certain applications as long as safety precautions are taken.

How Asbestos Causes Cancer

Doctors are still not exactly sure how asbestos causes cancer. Even so, the link between asbestos and mesothelioma is recognized as scientifically valid. Well over 90 percent of all mesothelioma patients have a history of asbestos exposure.

What is known about asbestos is that when the fibers are inhaled or ingested, they work themselves through the brachial passages or through the intestines into the mesothelium. When asbestos fibers reach the mesothelium, they become lodged in the tissue. After 10 to 50 years, the cells where asbestos fibers are present become cancerous and form a tumor. The tumor then grows and spreads throughout the body, eventually leading to death.

Asbestos Cancer Symptoms

Asbestos cancer is difficult to detect because symptoms often do not occur until the cancer is already in the late stages. In addition, the symptoms mimic those of other diseases, so asbestos cancer is often misdiagnosed as something less serious. The symptoms you may experience when you have asbestos cancer depends on where the tumors originate and how far they have expanded.

Asbestos cancer most commonly occurs in the pleura, the lining of the chest cavity. Some of the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Bloody sputum
  • Chest pain
  • Fluid in the lungs or chest cavity

If you have contracted peritoneal mesothelioma, your symptoms will be different than in pleural mesothelioma. Some of the most common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are as follows:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Distended abdomen
  • Fluid in the abdomen
  • Bowel obstruction

Pericardial mesothelioma is the least common of the three types of asbestos cancer. Symptoms of this form of the disease are as follows:

  • Chest pain
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue

Diagnosing Asbestos Cancer

Diagnosing asbestos cancer can take several months, and by the time the diagnosis is complete, the disease may have progressed to more serious stages. Diagnosis usually begins when you visit your primary care physician complaining of symptoms. Your physician will perform a physical examination and order X-rays. If an abnormality appears on the X-rays, an MRI or CT scan may be ordered. If the results are not conclusive or if they point to a possible tumor, you may be referred to a specialist.

A specialist has many more diagnostic tools available to accurately determine if you have asbestos cancer. The specialist will extract fluid from your chest or abdomen. The fluid is then analyzed for signs of cancer. The specialist may also order a biopsy. A biopsy involves the extraction of tissue samples, which are then tested and observed for cancerous cells. Finally, the doctor may view your chest or abdominal cavity through a thin tube with a light and camera attached.

Treating Asbestos Cancer

Asbestos cancer is treated in the same manner as many other forms of cancer. The three traditional treatments of the disease include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Three new treatments are also available: photodynamic therapy, gene therapy and immunotherapy.

The most common treatment for asbestos cancer is surgery. However, surgery can only be performed in early stages. It is associated with more complications than benefits when asbestos cancer is in the later stages. When surgery is performed, it is used to remove the largest portions of the tumor in hopes that the smaller tumors or plaques can be eradicated through other means.

Chemotherapy involves the injection of drugs that can kill cancerous cells, but the drugs also affect healthy tissue, causing a number of serious side effects. Radiation therapy uses radioactive materials to destroy cancerous cells. Photodynamic therapy is very similar to chemotherapy, but the drugs used are sensitive to ultraviolet light, so UV rays can used to pinpoint specific locations where the drugs are required.

If you are not responding to the traditional treatments, your doctors may order immunotherapy or gene therapy. Immunotherapy uses concentrated vitamins or drugs to strengthen the immune system and help it recognize the cancerous cells. Doctors have also had some success with causing cancerous cells to kill themselves through a process known as cell suicide, which alters genes.

It is important that you contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to assess your situation and prospective claim., You can contact the offices of Goldberg & Osborne today. Simply call 1-800-THE-EAGLE (1-800-843-3245) or fill out our online case form for your free, no obligation evaluation. We work at no cost until we win your case!


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