Asbestos Exposure Causes Many Diseases
Asbestos is the general name for a group of minerals characterized by tiny, inhalable fibers. When these fibers are breathed in, they can become lodged in the lungs and can lead to serious illness. The three illnesses most frequently associated with asbestos exposure are mesothelioma, certain lung cancers and asbestosis. All three of these are serious and can have serious impact on the life and health of victims.
Here is information on the illnesses associated with asbestos exposure:
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the tissues that line the lungs, abdomen and other regions of the body. It is almost always caused by asbestos exposure. Even short-term or second hand asbestos exposure can cause this disease. In some cases, asbestos workers who unknowingly carried home asbestos fibers on their clothing exposed their spouse and children who later developed mesothelioma.
2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the US every year. Most victims were exposed to asbestos decades ago. This illness carries a very poor prognosis and life expectancy depends on the type, location in the body and stage it was diagnosed. Mesothelioma is typically not detected until late stages which limits treatment options
Below are descriptions of the four types of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses:
#1 Pleural mesothelioma – The most prevalent form of the disease, it affects the pleural membrane that separates the lungs from the chest wall. These cells act as a lubricated strip to keep the lungs in place while allowing them to inflate and deflate. Asbestos fibers are inhaled into the lungs and travel through to the pleura where they damage cells. These cells are replaced with scar tissue which does not move as intended. This leads to a build-up of cancerous cells.
#2 Peritoneal mesothelioma – This form of the disease is found in the tissue surrounding the abdominal organs. Peritoneal mesothelioma is quite rare and can be caused in one of two ways – through direct ingestion or migration from the lung into the abdomen. Once the fibers reach the outer covering of the abdominal cavity, they lodge in the tissue and cause scarring and tumors. This is often misdiagnosed because the symptoms are similar to hernias and minor stomach pain.
#3 Pericardial mesothelioma – This occurs in the tissue around the heart and is a very rare form of mesothelioma accounting for just 5-10% of all diagnosed cases. It is little understood, but thought to occur when small asbestos fibers enter the bloodstream through the lungs and eventually get lodged in the heart and its pericardial lining where they damage cells and cause tumors. Symptoms include fatigue, chest pain, heart murmurs, irregular heartbeat, fever, night sweats and respiratory problems.
#4 Testicular mesothelioma – This is the rarest form of mesothelioma and accounts for less than 1% of all cases. This is a cancer of the tunica vaginalis – the lining around the testicles. It is not known how it is caused but survival rates are better than with the other types of mesothelioma. The most noticeable symptom is a swollen testicle. This illness is often misdiagnosed as a hernia and may be secondary to peritoneal mesothelioma.
Benign Pleural Mesothelioma – This is a type of noncancerous tumor that occurs in the chest. It does not generate from the same cells that cause malignant mesothelioma. It is also known as a “solitary fibrous tumor.” Because solitary fibrous tumors usually do not cause symptoms, they are generally discovered during unrelated medical procedures and are usually treated with surgery. Unlike the malignant form, it is not linked to asbestos.
Lung Cancer – Lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure is the same type of cancer caused by smoking. Smokers exposed to asbestos have much greater chances of developing cancer. Early diagnosis is difficult, it spreads rapidly and can rarely be cured. As many as 6% of lung cancer cases may also be linked to asbestos exposure. Like asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer is most often the result of significant, long-term occupational asbestos exposure.
Other Cancers – Asbestos can also cause cancer of the throat, stomach, esophagus and bowel. Some gastrointestinal cancers such as esophageal, laryngeal, stomach, colon and rectum have been connected to asbestos exposure. These cancers are thought to be caused by swallowing asbestos fibers.
Asbestosis – Generally less dangerous than lung cancer or mesothelioma, asbestosis is still a debilitating condition. Victims usually experience long term occupational exposure to airborne asbestos. Over time, this leads to thickening of the lung tissue, making breathing difficult. It is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer and smoking greatly increases the risk of lung cancer. It can manifest 7-9 years after exposure and lead to cardiac arrest and death.
Pleural Plaque and Thickening – Technically not a cancer because it is benign, a pleural plaque is a sign of an asbestos-related issue. These occur where asbestos fibers enter the pleura (the thin covering that protects your internal organs) and become encased in a calcium covering. On their own plaques are not dangerous, but several together can lead to a condition called pleural thickening. This can put extra pressure on your internal organs and cause difficulty breathing.
Contact Bergman Draper Ladenburg for Help
If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call Bergman Draper Ladenburg. We have decades of experience helping mesothelioma victims and have won more than $500 million for our clients.
Bergman Draper Ladenburg handles more mesothelioma cases than any other firm in the Pacific Northwest and can help you too. We focus exclusively on mesothelioma cases and on rare occasion asbestosis and lung cancer cases. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.