Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer: Diagnosis Challenges

Published on July 10, 2019, 2:26 pm
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Asbestos is a heat resistant mineral used in various products and industries well before the turn of the 20th century. One of the first companies to use asbestos on a large scale was H.W. Johns Manufacturing Company, founded in New York City in 1858. The company specialized in the manufacture of asbestos textiles, fire-resistant construction materials, and insulation products gave rise to a highly profitable industry.

Nowadays, employers are required to comply with strict regulations and to keep workers safe. Although the use of asbestos has decreased considerably in the U.S., it is estimated that 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry are still being exposed at their workplace to significant amounts of asbestos, especially when asbestos-based materials are disturbed during repair, renovation, removal, or maintenance.

There is mounting evidence showing that asbestos-containing products have been responsible for a number of asbestos exposure incidences. For instance, thousands of tons of asbestos-containing products were used in the construction of the twin towers in the 1960s. Among its other devastating effects, the World Trade Center attack filled the air with asbestos carcinogenic particles putting thousands of people at risk for lung diseases.

The primary route of entry into the body for asbestos fibers is inhalation. According to the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services, there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. Inhalation of airborne small fiber-like particles is detrimental to human health, already being demonstrated that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans.

Shortly after inhalation, the asbestos fibers which attached themselves to tissue start producing increasingly inflammation and scarring, which will ultimately affect the lungs extensively. Epidemiological studies have shown that over the years, asbestos fibers can cause genetic and cellular damage that can cause lung cells to turn cancerous. Lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure – around 4,800 deaths per year.

Unlike other toxicological agents that there are metabolized and excreted, asbestos fibers demonstrated high bioresistence in the human lung which explains the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases. The already well-documented mechanisms of toxicity and carcinogenicity produce inflammation and scarring gradually, thus, the inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to lung cancer within 15 to 40 years from the first exposure to the toxic mineral. Because of this long latency period, those who were exposed to asbestos decades ago are now developing fatal diseases, including lung cancer.

Many of the early symptoms of lung cancer, such as chest pain, persistent cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath, are also associated with other respiratory diseases. Therefore, these complications can often be attributed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary fibrosis or tuberculosis. In addition, lung cancer may also occur at the same time as one of these illnesses, making diagnosing even more challenging. Consequently, an asbestos-related lung cancer misdiagnosis is quite common and is more likely to happen especially when the patient and his doctor ignore the past history of asbestos exposure.

As the disease progresses, the decrease in pulmonary function it severely aggravates the quality of life. A misdiagnosis can cause doctors to prescribe wrong treatments and losing valuable treatment time in the process. Getting a proper diagnosis from specialists preferably specialized in asbestos-related diseases, like a B-reader, for example, hold the potential to assure a new lease on life.

A B-reader is a physician trained and certified in asbestos-related lung x-rays, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Practically, a B-Reader looks for changes or abnormalities on the chest x-ray that can be caused by inhalation of tiny particles of asbestos. In the context of appropriate clinical, radiologic, and surgical findings, the diagnosis of asbestos-related lung cancer should also be based on the results obtained from an adequate biopsy.

“Occupational diseases are often thought to be related to exposure to all forms of asbestos which remains a threat to the health of people in the U.S. and all around the globe. Millions of workers were exposed to asbestos dust prior to the implementation of asbestos regulation and improved measures. People who worked in construction, maintenance, heavy industry, were in contact with extremely high concentrations of asbestos. Anyone with a history of asbestos exposure should take special note of the symptoms and immediately seek medical attention. The predictors of survival and overall prognosis differ from person to person depending on their age, physical features, the severity of the disease when diagnosed and other comorbidities. However, extending the life of a patient with an asbestos-related disease also depends on the correct and early diagnosing” says Gregory A. Cade, an attorney with nearly 30 years of experience in handling asbestos exposure cases.

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer and you have a well-traced history with relevance in asbestos exposure, take the time to seek out a second opinion from a doctor who specializes in asbestos-related diseases. This could ultimately lead you to the best treatment options and might just save your life. Receiving a wrong diagnosis it will also affect the financial compensation you can recover from asbestos trust funds, as the sum of money asbestos victims are eligible for depends primarily on their diagnosis.

It is essential for asbestos patients to know that they may be eligible for legal compensation based on their exposure history. Choosing a reliable asbestos firm can make the difference between a right resolution and a case that leaves you with a deep sense of injustice and with minimal compensation, alongside with an unwanted prolongation of time.

If you are a victim of asbestos exposure, do not hesitate to contact Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. below in order to learn more about the legal options available to you.

About the author

Gregory A. Cade is the founder of Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. and a lawyer with a primary focus on asbestos exposure cases and a genuine desire to help asbestos exposure victims and their families. The strength behind his professional success comes from his vast experience, as Gregory A. Cade worked in the environmental law department for over 25 years. Besides dealing with asbestos claims, Gregory is also a passionate advocate for community health.


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