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Asbestos Related Lung Cancer

Asbestos can cause lung cancer but it is only one of a number of agents that can cause lung cancer. The leading cause of lung cancer is cigarette smoking. In some cases, there is no known cause for the lung cancer because the victim has either not smoked nor been exposed to any other carcinogen.

Developing lung cancer due to asbestos exposure

Where a person has smoked and worked regularly with asbestos, the risk of contracting lung cancer is much higher than it otherwise would be.

There is controversy concerning the amount of asbestos exposure that is required before asbestos can be said to be a cause of the lung cancer. That controversy ends when the victim has radiological evidence of the disease asbestosis. That is not because asbestosis is a precursor to lung cancer. It is because asbestosis is a “dose related” disease. That means substantial quantities of asbestos fibres must be inhaled in order to cause asbestosis and the presence of the disease indicates sufficient exposure for asbestos to be a cause of the lung cancer. The level of exposure to asbestos that is sufficient to cause asbestosis varies from person to person. Generally speaking, constant exposure to asbestos over a period of at least two years is required to cause asbestosis. It cannot be caused by small and intermittent exposures.

A victim who has lung cancer but does not have asbestosis can still claim. In such cases, it is necessary to demonstrate that the victim had very heavy exposure to asbestos over a number of years. Such a claim would be greatly assisted if the person was a non-smoker.

Latency period

There is generally a long latency period between exposure to asbestos and the development of lung cancer. The latency period is in the vicinity of 30 to 40 years.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of lung cancer are similar to the symptoms of mesothelioma. Usually, there is severe breathlessness on exertion accompanied with chest pain. Flu like symptoms may be present.

Lung cancer often causes a pleural effusion which has to be drained to relieve the pressure on the underlying lung. Tests are conducted on the pleural fluid in order to provide a diagnosis but are often non-diagnostic.

A biopsy is then usually performed at which tissue samples are taken for diagnosis. This often produces a conclusive diagnosis.

Unlike mesothelioma, lung cancer can be cured, but it depends on the stage the disease has reached.

In some cases where the disease has not spread, it is possible for a surgeon to remove either the affected lung or particular part of the lung. Chemotherapy is usually performed subsequent to treatment. In such cases, the lung cancer can be completely removed and a cure is possible.

In some cases, surgery is not possible, but chemotherapy can halt the spread of the disease.


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