Asbestos Lung Cancer

Asbestos lung cancer (also known as bronchogenic carcinoma) is a disease that can be caused by asbestos exposure particularly in people who also smoked cigarettes. In a leading study of asbestos workers conducted at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, it was found that asbestos workers who also smoked cigarettes, had a 50 to 90 times increase in lung cancer deaths when compared to people who neither smoked nor were exposed to asbestos. For non-smokers, the rate of lung cancer deaths was from asbestos exposure 5 times greater than the general population.

The Mt. Sinai study showed that asbestos exposure and the carcinogens in cigarette smoke act "synergistically" to multiply the risk for lung cancer in the people exposed to both substances. All lung cancer cell types can be caused by asbestos. These include adenocarcinoma, bronchoalveolar, small cell, large cell, oat cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Primary lung cancers caused by asbestos may occur in either lung and may be located in any of the lobes in the lung. Additionally, lung cancer can be related to asbestos exposure whether or not a person also has pulmonary asbestosis or asbestos-related pleural disease. (Although it would not be uncommon for a person to have both asbestosis and lung cancer).

The latency period for lung cancer is quite long ranging from 15 to 20, 30 or more years from first exposure. While lung cancer attributable to cigarette smoking (which has a similar latency period) has been well-documented, less attention has been focused on asbestos-related lung cancers. It should be noted that when a person stops smoking cigarettes his lung cancer risk immediately begins to drop, approaching the risk of a non-smoker 10 to 15 years after quitting. For someone occupationally exposed to asbestos, however, his lung cancer risk remains high even if he stopped smoking many years before (since microscopic asbestos fibers can remain in the lungs, continuing to do damage, for a lifetime).

Asbestos Lung Cancer Symptoms & Diagnosis

The symptoms and physical findings of lung cancer depend upon the location of the tumor, the size of the tumor, and the specific cell type of the tumor. The symptoms of lung cancer patients vary, but they include persistent cough, a vague and persistent chest pain, a buildup of fluid in the chest, and shortness of breath with activity. These symptoms are nonspecific and must be carefully evaluated by a physician.

Treatment of Asbestos Lung Cancer  

The prognosis for someone diagnosed with lung cancer is often good. Particularly if it is diagnosed early, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or some combination of these treatments can often result in complete remission and long-term survival. Additionally, modern treatments, especially chemotherapy, have far fewer side effects than they did even a few years ago.

The treatments available for lung cancer depend upon the size of the tumor at the time of diagnosis, the location of the tumor, the age and general health of the patient, the cell type of the cancer, and a variety of important clinical information.

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