Asbestos and Cancer
A mineral found in underground rock deposits known as asbestos was once heavily used in the industrial world in many different occupational, military, commercial, and residential capacities. Asbestos is resistant to fire, electricity, and chemical corrosion, making it an instrumental material to build with. It’s largely found in insulation and heat-resistant products.
After several years of mining, processing, distributing, and utilizing asbestos in a variety of construction capacities, researchers discovered its toxic properties. The mineral was then classified as a carcinogen (known to cause cancer) when employees and veterans that worked around it began developing mesothelioma and other cancers several years after prolonged asbestos exposure. Asbestos has been known to cause other noncancerous diseases as well, like asbestosis.
Types of Cancer That Develop from Asbestos Exposure
When asbestos fibers are disturbed and expelled into the air in mining, construction, demolition, and renovation projects, workers and those nearby can easily ingest them. Primarily, the fibers tend to get stuck around the lungs, where they’ll irritate the tissue. Still, the fibers can sometimes make it further to other areas inside the body.
Lung Cancers and Their Subtypes
Besides mesothelioma, multiple other lung-related cancers can develop from prolonged exposure to asbestos.
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Also referred to as NSCLC, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. NSCLC is classified by the rate at which tumors develop, as tumors tend to grow and spread in the lungs much slower than small cell lung cancer.
- Small Cell Lung Cancer
Additionally referred to as SCLC, small cell lung cancer is identified by its ability to quickly develop in the affected lung. SCLC tends to begin development in the bronchi where it can spread to other areas, such as the lymph nodes. It has two subtypes: large cell carcinoma and oat cell carcinoma.
- Large Cell Carcinoma
A subtype of lung cancer, large-cell carcinomas form when tumors grow on the lungs’ outer edges. This type of cancer develops faster than others and can spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
- Oat Cell Carcinoma
When SCLC tumors develop as clumps of cancer cells in one area, they are known as “oat-cell” carcinomas. This is because the bunched cells look like oats under a microscope.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma
A subtype of lung cancer where tumors develop in the area where the larger bronchi join the trachea to the lung. Squamous cell carcinomas can also develop in the airway branches.
- Adenosquamous Cell Carcinoma
Another subtype of lung cancer that combines the properties of adenocarcinoma and squamous cell lung cancer.
Several cancer types develop in specific areas inside and around the throat. Throat cancer tumors in this region also can affect the windpipe, as tumors can develop in the epiglottis (windpipe lid).
- Esophageal Cancer
Tumors can develop in the esophagus, which is a long, narrow tube that goes from your throat to your stomach. The esophagus helps the body efficiently digest food.
- Laryngeal Cancer
Tumors for this disease form specifically in the voice box (larynx).
- Pharyngeal Cancer
These tumors develop in the throat (pharynx).
- Oropharyngeal Cancer
Also a subtype of pharyngeal cancer. Oropharyngeal cancer is a type of throat cancer that develops specifically in the middle part of the throat (oropharynx).
Tumors can develop in other regions of the body, depending on how the asbestos fibers were ingested. Besides inhalation, the fibers can be swallowed, exposing a deeper area. Other cancers that can develop from asbestos exposure include:
- Neuroendocrine Carcinoma
Neuroendocrine tumors (NET) begin in specialized cells of the body’s neuroendocrine system. This system helps maintain the body’s homeostasis. It regulates reproduction, growth, metabolism, energy and nutrition consumption and usage, blood pressure, and osmosis. These types of cells can be found all over the body, however, cancer cells primarily surface in the gastrointestinal tract. Neuroendocrine carcinomas can also appear in the lungs, pancreas, and adrenal glands.
- Colon Cancer
This illness consists of tumor development in the large intestine (the final part of the digestive tract). This disease can begin as a clump of noncancerous cells that form inside of the colon, also known as polyps, that can easily be missed due to a lack of symptoms.
- Ovarian Cancer
Uncommonly, ovarian cancer has been tied to the ingestion of asbestos. Tumors will form in the ovaries or female reproductive glands.
- Stomach Cancer
This disease generally begins in mucus-producing cells that line the stomach. Stomach cancer can also be referred to as a type of adenocarcinoma in the stomach.
This is a subtype of cancer that develops in areas of the body that contain mucus-secreting glands. For instance, you could have non-small lung cancer that’s adenocarcinoma type if tumors grow in the mucous glands of the lungs. The glands that adenocarcinomas affect tend to line the inside of one or multiple of your organs. Adenocarcinoma can also form in the glands that line the colon, breasts, esophagus, pancreas, stomach, or prostate.
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Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms of cancer will vary based on the location of tumors. Still, there are general symptoms that most with cancer have in common. It’s essential to keep in mind that while these are common symptoms in people with cancer, experiencing these symptoms does not automatically mean a definite diagnosis.
Some general symptoms of cancer can include:
- Changes in the skin:
- Hyperpigmentation (darker skin pigment)
- Yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Red skin (erythema)
- Itchy skin (pruritus)
- Hair growing more than usual
- Extreme tiredness that doesn’t go away after resting (fatigue)
- Chronic pain (Ex: back pain for colon or ovary cancers)
- Unexplained weight loss (10 lbs or more)
For pleural mesothelioma, lung or throat cancers, some specific symptoms can include:
- Chronic coughing or coughing up blood
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Excessive pain in the throat or chest
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
If you experience more than one of these symptoms, it could be time to visit your doctor. After learning your symptoms, they will administer some tests. Once the results come back, your doctor can give you an official medical diagnosis.
Legal Compensation for Cancer Diagnosis Linked to Asbestos
Since scientists labeled asbestos as an official carcinogen, laws and regulations were put in place to protect workers, residents, and other individuals from negligent asbestos exposure. It’s legally the responsibility of the building owner, manager, or contractor to ensure that the worksite or residence is devoid of asbestos and other toxins before allowing people to enter. Asbestos is especially dangerous when its fibers are disturbed. When an asbestos building is slated to be demolished or renovated, appropriate asbestos removal must be completed by an accredited agency.
If you’ve been exposed to asbestos negligently and have been officially diagnosed with cancer or other illness because of it, you could be eligible for financial compensation from the companies responsible. Talk to an experienced attorney, and they’ll be able to inform you of the best practice for moving forward with a legal claim.