Hearing the term "lung cancer" is devastating news for someone diagnosed with the disease. Thoughts of pain and sickness cloud the reality that lung cancer has a good prognosis for being cured. That's especially so if detected in the early stage before tumors grow and metastasize or spread. However, it depends on the type of lung cancer (LC). Some people use the LC term for another more deadly lung disease called pleural mesothelioma.
To add confusion, all cases of pleural mesothelioma are forms of lung cancer, but not all lung cancers are mesothelioma. There’s a distinct difference between the two. Tumors in lung cancer tissue are far more common than tumors in the lung lining which is called the mesothelium. But they have something in common. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma result from exposure to asbestos.
Lung cancer cases drastically outnumber mesothelioma diagnosis by 73 to 1. Each year, 220,000 Americans contract lung cancer. Mesothelioma is much rarer with an average of 3,000 cases yearly. The relation to asbestos also differs. About 80 percent of lung cancer tumors result from carcinogens like tobacco smoke, heavy metals and various pollutants. Asbestos exposure is directly responsible for 20 percent of lung cancers tumors.
Mesothelioma cancer has other statistics. It’s solely caused by airborne asbestos fibers entering the lungs and then working their way through to the mesothelium where they stay trapped. Pleural mesothelioma (PM) is 100 percent attributed to asbestos, and the chances of successful treatment for PM are dismal. Lung cancer tumors, however, can be isolated and treated. The reason lies in each type of tumor structure.
Lung Cancer VS Mesothelioma Tumors
Medical science is not sure what causes body cells to turn cancerous. Healthy human cells live and die in a predictable and controllable rate. New cells form and divide to replace old cells, and that’s part of healthy growth and stability. Occasionally, some cells don’t die. They mutate by defying normal DNA directions and go rogue. Cancer cells grow uncontrollably and form tumors which are life forms of their own. They feed off healthy cells. Eventually, localized cancer cells expand or spread to other organs. This process is called metastasizing.
Lung cancer tumors form on the inner surface of the lung tissue around air sacs or the alveoli. They can also form in bronchial tubes. Regardless of where they start, lung cancer tumors start as localized growths and are identifiable. That makes LC tumors easy to identify and remove or remotely treat before they spread.
Mesothelioma cancer cells are a diffused malignancy. That means they’re spread all over the mesothelium and connect through a network of malignant cells rather than a pinpoint spot. It is impossible to remove later stage mesothelioma surgically. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments are also less efficient at treating mesothelioma than they are at handling regular lung cancer.
Lung Cancer and Asbestos Exposure
Tobacco smoke and other irritants trigger lung cancer tumors. However, asbestos exposure is responsible for some LC cases. However, every documented case of pleural mesothelioma starts with inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers. Tobacco smoke does not directly cause mesothelioma, but smokers who have prolonged asbestos exposure are 50 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than non-smokers.
Asbestos is a generic name for silicate minerals that have fibrous structures. Asbestos fibers have unique physical properties than once appeared perfect for adding to other materials. Asbestos fibers were fireproof, durable and stable to blend with other substances. They were non-corrosive, non-conductive and chemically inert. Additionally, asbestos was widely available and highly economical. For those reasons, asbestos appeared in over 3,000 different products from the 1920s to the 1980s when its deadly carcinogenic traits were accepted.
Not all raw asbestos forms are the same. There are two distinct classifications. One is serpentine asbestos with long and soft fibers. Chrysotile is the only asbestos in this class and accounts for 90 percent of all asbestos consumed in America. The smaller type is amphibole asbestos. There are five subtypes of amphibole fibers. They’re shorter, harder and much more dangerous to human lung and mesothelium tissue.
When asbestos fibers enter the lungs, they do two things. First, they lodge in the lung’s soft inner tissue. Second, they traverse the soft tissue and travel through to the lung lining. Asbestos fibers stick to lung tissue and lining like flypaper. They can’t be exhaled and don’t decompose like organic pollutants.
Asbestos irritants remain in the lungs and trigger a natural immune system response to cover the fibers with scar tissue. That can be small, localized scars in the alveoli or large, extensive coverings in the mesothelium. There is a long latency or build-up period for LC and PM tumors to develop. That ranges anywhere from 10 to 50 years depending on the individual circumstances. But once these tumors turn malignant, they are aggressive and come on fast.
Detecting Lung Cancer Caused by Asbestos Exposure
Most lung cancer victims first suspect trouble when unusual symptoms arise. Lung cancer tumors slowly build and then rapidly escalate. Symptoms present as a shortage of breath, lack of oxygen, fatigue and chest discomfort. Continual coughing and excessive phlegm are also red flags of tumors.
The best lung cancer detection is knowing the risks of developing lung cancer after prolonged asbestos exposure. Patients with a history of asbestos exposure should discuss this with their doctor and have precautionary detection tests. Chest X-rays and blood work are excellent ways to detect asbestos-caused scars about to turn tumorous.
Treating Lung Cancer Tumors Triggered by Asbestos
The key to successfully treating lung cancer tumors is early detection and immediate intervention. That’s the same approach for both LC and PM tumors. Like all cancer forms, lung tumors are assessed by their progress stage.
Treatment techniques depend on where tumor progression is in these defined stages:
- Stage 1: Lung cancer tumors are small and localized. They’re easy to isolate and surgery often entirely removes all malignant cells. Radiation and chemotherapy may also work well in stage one.
- Stage 2: These tumors are spreading. Sometimes, other organs are already affected. Surgery is more difficult than in stage one, and radiation and chemo are also less promising.
- Stage 3: By now, lung cancer has widely spread and nearly impossible to control. Intervention turns to assisting a patient’s comfort and lifestyle.
- Stage 4: There is no hope of recovery in stage four. Health care workers focus on pain control and physical comfort. Often, this is in a hospice or palliative setting.
Compensation for Lung Cancer Caused by Asbestos Exposure
No matter if a person develops lung cancer or mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, they have the option to seek compensation from negligent asbestos product manufacturers and distributors. Courts across America have long held negligent parties accountable for knowingly placing innocent Americans at risk for developing lung cancer from asbestos exposure. Large companies were forced to set aside trust funds for people living with lung cancer.
Compensation is available to cover medical expenses, personal injury damages and lost income. Families of people with asbestos cancer can file claims on their behalf. They can also commence lawsuits in wrongful death cases.
For additional information on lung cancer compensation, call us today at 855-620-9524.