Should Lung Cancer Screening Guide Include Asbestos Exposure?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended that heavy smokers receive annual lung cancer screenings using low-dose CT scans instead of X-rays.

The recommendation is limited to longtime, pack-a-day smokers ages 55 to 79. However, some patient advocacy groups feel the guidance should be expanded to include those who may smoke less but have other risk factors such as exposure to asbestos, a known lung carcinogen, according to a recent posting on Boston.com.

Because of the strength and heat resistance of its fibers, asbestos was used in a wide range of commercial and residential building products, as well as in automobile parts, fabrics, gaskets, and many types of fire-resistant coatings. We now know that exposure to asbestos can result in deadly diseases such as pleural mesothelioma, a rare cancer that occurs in the membranes lining the lungs.

It can take decades for symptoms related to pleural mesothelioma to appear, which makes it critical that those exposed to asbestos-containing materials be tested. Most asbestos exposure occurs on the job but some occupations are more at risk than others. Those who worked in the construction and automobile industries, in shipyards, or spent time on U.S. Navy ships are at higher risk of exposure and should be tested regularly by a medical professional familiar with asbestos-related illnesses.

While testing for cancer comes with its own risk of excess exposure to radiation from CT scans—the preferred testing method—the task force determined that the benefits outweigh the risks for certain patients. A CT or computed tomography scan is better at identifying tumors, according to Boston.com The new recommendation could help doctors spot cancer earlier on, which is key to the treatment of mesothelioma.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, you may want to learn about potential legal action. Call Sokolove Law today and a paralegal trained in asbestos litigation can guide you through your options.