Asbestos cancers are diseases that are caused by ingesting or inhaling the minuscule asbestos fibers that can be found where you might least expect them. While typically asbestos will be found in places that are rundown and unkempt, it may be lurking in your older houses, office buildings, and other places you frequent without even realizing the dangers.
Asbestos is a substance that is naturally fibrous and cannot be destroyed or dissolved by your body once ingested. Once they are inside of you they cannot be removed and over time they can cause a host of health problems and mutations that often lead to cancer and other issues.
In addition to increased exposure to asbestos, other factors can further your risk of developing asbestos-related cancers. If you’re drinking or smoking heavily, and are in poor shape, your body will be more susceptible to developing these problems. Asbestos is mostly ingested in work-related instances, which makes these cancers one of the top occupational killers.
How Do You Know You Have Mesothelioma
If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos or that you have had increased exposure to it, you should be checking in with your doctor regularly. These problems can develop over time so it is important to pay attention to any health changes and frequently check in with your doctor to keep track of your overall health and make sure you’re not at risk.
If you start to notice symptoms like these, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible:
- Breathing Problems and Chest Pains: If you’re struggling to breathe, have a persistent cough, and any pains in your chest and lung regions, you could be suffering from mesothelioma. These issues can also be the signs of lung cancer and it is recommended that you have your doctor do regular chest screenings if you believe you’re at risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease.
- Issues with your Gut Health: Problems with digestion, bloating, discomfort, and even difficulty with your bowels can tip you off that you might have contracted stomach, ovarian, or colon cancer. Or they can be signs of Peritoneal Mesothelioma,
- Reproductive and Sexual Health: If sex has become painful or you’re having struggles with your menstrual cycle, you should get checked for ovarian cancer.
- Throat Soreness or Difficulty Swallowing: If your throat is constantly irritated and you feel like you can never quite clear your throat, you should get your larynx looked at. Your asbestos exposure could have caused laryngeal cancer and you must seek treatment as soon as possible.
Any of these symptoms should be cause for alarm but combined they can be even more worrisome. It is important if you think you or a loved one might be suffering from an asbestos-related illness that you see your doctor right away. If caught early enough there are chances for treatment that can eradicate a majority of the problem.
How to Diagnose
If your doctor is worried you may have been exposed to asbestos and are now struggling as a result, they will likely refer you to a specialist who deals mostly with the kind of symptoms you’re exhibiting. They’ll want to give you as thorough of a checkup as they can before your referral so they can be sure where exactly the problem is stemming from.
This means they’ll likely want to do some tests that allow them to see what’s going on inside of the body, such as an MRI, X-ray, or CT scans so they can check for abnormalities. If they come up with any grey spots, or alarming imaging they’ll likely send them along to be reviewed and proceed with checking other areas.
The specialist will want to take some blood samples so they can review your levels and see if any abnormalities are showing up in your blood as well. If your blood cell count is off or you’re showing high or low levels of anything, that will also be factored into your potential diagnosis.
If they believe you might have a tumor, they will likely want to do a biopsy. This means they’ll take some of the tissue from the tumor itself and then send it to the lab for testing. This is what will help you determine if you have cancer and if so what kind. Mesothelioma, in particular, is diagnosed through this method, as well as lung, ovarian, and colon cancer if you sample happens to be taken via colonoscopy.
Once they are sure of what kind of cancer you might have, they will be able to talk about treatment options with you. These options will vary greatly depending on the type of cancer, what your insurance will be able to cover, and if there are specific treatment options available for your cancer like clinical trials or experimental drugs.
If treatment can begin early enough, you’ll have a better chance of recovery and survival, though treatment doesn’t mean cure. Mesothelioma can be treated and the symptoms reduced through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, integrative medicine, alternative medicine, or combinations.
Cancers That are Directly Caused by Asbestos Exposure
The National Cancer Institute has concluded that asbestos leads most commonly to mesothelioma, as well as cancers relating to the lungs, ovaries, and larynx. This is due to the nature of exposure as asbestos is most typically ingested or breathed in. If you or a loved one is in an occupation that requires work with textiles, insulation, or any other kind of building materials, they may be at risk of contracting one of these cancers as the fibers can be found in related materials.
Those who tend to work in construction or demolition are more likely to be exposed to asbestos as it is present in building insulation and other materials that are used to construct and repair things. This is why it is important to use a respirator when working in these environments so you don’t accidentally breathe in any of the particles that can be damaging.
So these dangerous fibers were present in these occupations without workers knowing to use protective covering. These fibers may not have irritated you right away but as they build up over time they began to inflame and scar up soft tissue like your lungs, the lining of your stomach, ovaries, and your throat.
So many workers have been exposed to this toxic material without knowing and it has led to irreversible damage to the respiratory system, as well as stomach and chest pains. Now that there is more widespread knowledge about the dangers of asbestos, these workers prepare more efficiently to work with such materials and in such environments.
But that damage has been done for so many already and lawsuits have been filed to get those who have suffered adequate compensation and aid for this kind of negligence.
Pleural mesothelioma affects the lungs and can be marked by difficulty breathing, chest pains, and persistent coughing. As asbestos particles are breathed in, these particles can irritate and damage the lining of the lungs, so it makes it harder to breathe without assistance or treatment.
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdominal lining and causes painful swelling, abdominal pain, nausea, and issues with ascites. These symptoms are caused by irritation and damage to the abdominal lining and can lead to a host of other complications with digestion.
In some cases, mesothelioma can even develop around the testes or the heart but that is far rarer.
Even with the development in preventative measures, cases of mesothelioma due to asbestos inhalation have grown rather than tapered off. This is largely due to the fact that signs of most asbestos-related cancers don’t manifest immediately. Typically depending on the amount of exposure you’ve had as well as the length of time you’ve been exposed will help to determine when symptoms begin manifesting. For some, it can be over a decade before they even start showcasing signs of mesothelioma or other illnesses.
Because asbestos cannot be expelled from the body, it can take time and accumulation before damage is done to the tissue in your body. If you’re noticing any alarming and persistent signs, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Signs like, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pains, coughing, and even unexplained weight loss, can be alarming signals that you may have contracted mesothelioma.
Inhalation of these fibers has been linked to increased cases of lung cancer. This likelihood of contracting lung cancer after exposure to asbestos skyrockets if you’ve been or are currently a smoker. Smoking breaks down the natural defense of your lungs to act as filters and thus increases the risk of lung cancer.
The number of lung cancer deaths is double that of mesothelioma cases each year. With cases at more than half a million, this is not a diagnosis to be taken lightly. If you notice any persistent symptoms that are related to lung cancer you should seek out a doctor right away.
Your larynx, or voice box, is a sensitive bit of tissue that can be affected by the passing of asbestos particles on their way to other parts of the body. Once inhaled, it is impossible to tell where particles have lodged themselves and thus remained. In addition to asbestos, if you’ve been exposing yourself to heavy amounts of alcohol or smoke, you are putting yourself even more at risk of contracting cancer.
Cigarette smoke and alcohol weaken the immune system, as well as your organs’ natural defenses against foreign particles.
It may not seem like asbestos could have a direct link to causing ovarian cancer, but it has been established as one of the lesser-known causes. Recent studies especially have shown that hygiene products used on or around the area that either has asbestos in them or have particles attached have led to cases of ovarian cancer.
If you are suffering from any discomfort after sex, menstruation upset, and more, you’ll want to consult your gynecologist to check for any underlying issues.
Cancers With Possible Links to Asbestos Exposure
While it cannot be definitively proven with current data that these cancers are caused directly by exposure to asbestos, evidence has shown that there may be a link between certain other cancers and direct or indirect exposure. They aren’t as commonly linked, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some evidence to support the possibility.
Your mouth and nose are joined with your esophagus via a cavity referred to as the pharynx. Due to the passage of food, water, and other particles through the pharynx, it is relatively easy for asbestos particles to get caught and to gather there. This can lead to cancer as the fibers cannot be removed once they’ve been inhaled.
It has been found that as of 2020 it is estimated that a startling 53,260 people will suffer from oral or oropharyngeal cancers. While these are mostly caused by excessive smoking and drinking, there is a higher level of cases for asbestos-related pharyngeal cancer.
Just like the ingestion of asbestos particles can cause peritoneal mesothelioma, it is similar to stomach cancer. Over 27,000 people in the United States will struggle with stomach cancer. It can be caused by a variety of factors like smoking, an infection of helicobacter pylori bacteria, poor diet, weight issues. There are even some studies that show that water that has been infiltrated by asbestos can lead to high levels of gastrointestinal cancer.
Much like with stomach cancer, exposure to or ingestion of asbestos particles can cause growths and the acceleration of cancer cells within the gastrointestinal system. It can also be affected by smoking, excessive alcohol, poor diet, and a lack of exercise. Colon cancer is one of the more common forms of cancer in recent years and can spread to other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat.
Cancers With Slight Links to Asbestos Exposure
These fibers can get lodged in and affect so many different parts of the body once they’ve been inhaled or ingested. It can move easily through the body and affect all different organs and soft tissues, so it isn’t far-fetched to imagine it could lead to other forms of cancer.
While it may not seem like it, cancer of the kidneys is far more common in the U.S and is linked to the ingestion and inhalation of toxic materials. Especially those who work in industrial situations and are inhaling chemicals, insecticides or herbicides, and heavy metals. It can of course be affected by the typical issues with heavy drinking, smoking, poor diet, heavy medications, and being overweight, but there is emerging evidence that asbestos exposure is another possible cause of kidney cancer and other illnesses.
Issues with asbestos that relate to the larynx and pharynx, can also lead to issues with the esophagus. Due to the connection of the areas, they are also commonly linked to things being ingested or breathed in that can be toxic to the body. Asbestos can cause issues with your esophagus this way as the particles will be swallowed or breathed in and get lodged in the soft tissue. Of course, the common culprits like poor diet, poor habits, and even excessive acid reflux can lead to cancer of the esophagus as well.
Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer
It is less common but asbestos exposure affects the soft tissue and it can cause issues with lymph nodes that are near the breasts or groin. There isn’t a truly significant amount of research that links exposure to asbestos to either of these cancers, but there are chances that this toxic material can damage and irritate those soft tissues and lead to cancer.
Bile Duct Cancer
Due to the size and airborne quality of asbestos particles, it is easy for them to become lodged or collect in the ducts that are found in the gallbladder, liver, and intestines. This can then develop into cancers of the gallbladder, liver, and digestive tracts as the irritation and damage will continue without a way to get the particles out.
Statistics on Asbestos-Related Cancer
Typical exposure is in workplaces where there are heavy metals, chemicals, insulation, and other environments with fibrous asbestos materials. It has been used in many building materials and automotive work which makes it difficult for you to avoid it as it has been utilized for years in these situations. Once asbestos is inhaled it is impossible to remove it, as it is fibrous and gets lodged in the soft tissue it is exposed to.
What to Do
If you believe you may be working in an environment where you’ll be exposed, you should invest in a respirator to keep the particles out of your lungs.
While it may not manifest right away, asbestos can live inside of your lungs and other parts of your body once it has been inhaled or ingested. You may not notice symptoms for several years, depending on the duration of your exposure and the dosage you were exposed to.
If you are a smoker as well, you are more susceptible to developing lung cancer or other asbestos-related cancers. Smoking weakens your lungs and your immune system so you are more likely to develop breathing problems and potential tumors.
To protect yourself from asbestos exposure you should contact the Department of Labor to see what can be done to protect you in your work environment. They can help by providing you with resources for protective gear or even potentially discuss with your workplace to provide it. You may be able to register your workplace as a potentially toxic environment should the asbestos be due to poor upkeep.
You shouldn’t have to worry about being able to afford treatment, especially considering asbestos is out of your control. If you’ve been exposed to it in your work environment, you may be entitled to some form of compensation for medical expenses. Medicare can often cover work-related illnesses and injuries, so you can talk to your provider and see what they can do to help your situation. Also, you may be able to contact the Department of Labor to see if your state is one where asbestos falls under your worker’s compensation package.
If you are a government employee and have contracted an asbestos-related illness while on the job, you can file a claim with the Federal Employees Compensation Program. They can help you with wage loss, medical compensation, and even possible rehabilitation costs should you need it.
If you believe you’ve contracted mesothelioma or another related illness due to negligence in your workplace and you aren’t receiving the compensation you deserve, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. If you were not provided with adequate safety measures or your company was aware of potential exposure, there are plenty of attorneys who handle mesothelioma negligence cases every day.