Types of Asbestos Cancers
Exposure to asbestos has been directly linked to two types of cancers: lung cancer and mesothelioma, which is a rare but particularly aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the chest (pleural mesothelioma), the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), or the heart (pericardial mesothelioma). The National Cancer Institute reports that there may also be an association between asbestos exposure and cancers of the throat, kidney, esophagus, gallbladder, colon, and intestine, though the evidence is not conclusive.
The chances of developing either type of asbestos cancer—lung cancer or mesothelioma— increase in relation to the amount of asbestos a person is exposed to and for how long a period of time they were exposed. However, researchers have found asbestos-related diseases including asbestos cancer in individuals who had only brief exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos Cancer: Mesothelioma
While relatively rare, with around 3,200 new cases reported in the U.S. each year, malignant mesothelioma is still a significant risk to people exposed to asbestos. Because mesothelioma symptoms are similar to those of other less serious diseases such as influenza or a bronchial infection, and because symptoms of the disease can take 40 years or more to appear after asbestos exposure, there is some concern about misdiagnosed mesothelioma cases and questions as to whether this asbestos cancer is underreported. However, it is agreed that asbestos exposure is the cause of mesothelioma.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed, they can work their way to the mesothelium tissue that lines the lungs, abdomen, and heart, and result in one of three types of mesothelioma.
- Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleura, the tissue surrounding the lungs. This is the most common form of mesothelioma.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the abdomen.
- Pericardial mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining around the heart. This is the least common form of mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma cannot be cured with today’s medical knowledge, and the average survival time after diagnosis is only one year. About 10 percent of people diagnosed with mesothelioma survive for more than five years.
Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
Asbestos exposure can be a factor in developing either of the two most common types of lung cancer: small-cell lung cancer and non small-cell lung cancer. Non small-cell lung cancer accounts for 85-90 percent of lung cancers.
The average man in the U.S. has a one in 12 chance of getting lung cancer and the average woman a one in 16 chance. Asbestos workers, however, are about seven times more likely to die of lung cancer than the general population. And asbestos workers who smoke have a 50-90 times greater chance of getting lung cancer than the general population.
Most asbestos-induced lung cancer forms in the lining of the bronchi, the air tubes within the lungs. However, lung cancer can also begin in other areas of the pulmonary system. Although asbestos lung cancer usually develops slowly and may not appear until many years after exposure to asbestos, once it does occur, cancerous cells can metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. Patients with early-stage asbestos-induced lung cancer often display no symptoms.
The prognosis for either type of lung cancer is poor. Nearly 60 percent of patients diagnosed with lung cancer die within one year, and nearly 75 percent die within two years. About 16 percent of people diagnosed with non small-cell lung cancer survive the disease for more than five years; only about six percent of those diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer survive more than five years.
If you or a loved one has a history of asbestos exposure and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, you may want to consider taking legal action against the companies whose asbestos-containing products led to your exposure.
Call Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation.