Asbestos exposure is strongly associated with several potentially fatal illnesses, including multiple types of asbestos lung cancer and other chronic fibrotic diseases of the lungs. Asbestos fibers are smaller than other airborne particles and cause serious long-term consequences by penetrating the lungs and infiltrating organ tissues. The asbestos fibers cause irritation, inflammation and infection.
The most serious illness associated with asbestos exposure is malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, abdomen and other organ cavities. Dr. David Sugarbaker, the Director of the International Mesothelioma Program says that because of modern medicine, a mesothelioma diagnosis is no longer hopeless.
Asbestos cancers and other related diseases generally develop many years, even decades, after the initial exposure. Symptoms from heavy, prolonged exposure, as well as brief, limited asbestos exposure may not appear for 10 to 40 years. Because mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer and other related diseases can almost always be attributed to asbestos exposure, you should tell your doctor about any past exposure, including your work or family history.
Asbestos exposure is associated with the following diseases and conditions:
Asbestosis is the chronic inflammation and subsequent scarring of the lung that causes shortness of breath and is linked with an increased risk of lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the abnormal cell growth of lung tissues. Asbestos exposure can cause or contribute to lung cancer, most commonly in patients with a significant smoking history. Cigarette smoke has a synergistic effect with asbestos and can multiply the relative risks of developing lung cancer up to 50 fold.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which occurs in the mesothelial cells that line the lung, chest cavity, abdominal cavity, heart cavity and the outer surface of most internal organs.
Pleural plaques is a condition describing the presence of irregular, scarred tissue outside lining of the lung (pleura).
Pleural disease occurs when the scarring of the lung's lining is sufficient enough to cause restrictive lung disease.