Asbestos Lung Cancer

Asbestos lung cancer, like mesothelioma, is best treated after a swift and accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, patients with asbestos lung cancer need access to financial assistance for medical treatment and living expenses. Asbestos trust funds provide quick and hassle-free access to ready money.

The biggest difference between asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma is where the cancer develops. Asbestos lung cancer is a result of cancer developing in the lungs, while mesothelioma grows in the lining around the lungs, called the pleura.

There are six types of asbestos in the serpentine and amphibole mineral families that are known to cause life-threatening lung cancer: actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite and tremolite. While all types can cause asbestos lung cancer, mesothelioma and other diseases, crocidolite, chrysotile and amosite are among the most widely used and most deadly.

Importance of an Accurate Diagnosis

The key to remission and recovery from asbestos lung cancers is a quick diagnosis that can lead to speedy and aggressive treatment. Anyone who has been diagnosed with lung cancer or lung disease and has had any suspected exposure to asbestos must also seek a second opinion to be sure the disease is treated appropriately.

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Types of Asbestos Lung Cancer

Asbestos lung cancer causes an estimated 4800 deaths a year. This form of cancer is caused when asbestos fibers cause cancerous cells inside the lungs. There are four main types of lung cancer:

  • Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) – About 85 percent of all lung cancers are diagnosed as NSCLC. The types of NSCLC include adenocarcinoma (the most common form of lung cancer in the United States), squamous cell carcinoma (25 percent of NSCLC) and large cell carcinoma (10 percent of NSCLC).
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) – Some 15 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses in the United States are categorized as small cell or oat cell cancer. It is known to be more responsive to chemotherapy treatment than NSCLC.
  • Lung Adenocarcinoma – As the most common form of non small cell lung cancer, adenocarcinoma is slow growing, making it harder to quickly detect. The disease begins in mucus-secreting glands in the body and mainly occurs in current and former smokers.
  • Non Small Cell Lung Carcinoma (NSCLC) – A carcinoma begins in the cells in the lung bronchi, bronchioles or alveoli. These cells form various types of cancers including adenocarcinoma (develops in the lining of glands in epithelial tissue), squamous cell cancer (forms near air tubes or bronchus in lungs) and large cell cancer (forms in any part of the lungs and is more aggressive than other types).

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How to Get Diagnosed

A key component to remission or recovery from asbestos lung cancer is a quick diagnosis. This needs to be done by a physician who understands the complexities of such a unique form of cancer. Even though mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer develop and are treated differently, they are often diagnosed using similar techniques:

  • Chest X-Ray – An X-ray is typically the first test doctors perform for suspected asbestos lung cancer. Plain X-rays can be done quickly in a physician’s office or imaging locations. If the images show unusual masses or nodules, physicians order further imaging tests.
  • Imaging Scans (CT/CAT, PET and MRI scans) – Computed tomography (CT/CAT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) positron emission tomography (PET) scans are painless tests that show greater detail of suspected cancerous tissues. PET scans offer the most detailed view of changes in tissue and a distinction between types of tumors.
  • Bronchoscopy – Using a long, thin viewing instrument called a bronchoscope that is passed through the mouth and down the airway, physicians are able to examine the inner lungs. A bronchoscope has a light and small camera for more accurate results.
  • Biopsy – There are several procedures used to take biopsies, or tissue samples, including needle biopsies and minimally invasive surgery. In some cases, a bronchoscope is used to take biopsies. The tissue samples are examined under a microscope for a precise diagnosis.
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Treatment Options

Treatment for both asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma depends on types of cells involved and spread of the disease. In most cases, a multimodal approach is taken for both forms of cancer, using a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Treatment plans also largely depend on the patient’s age and overall health.

  • Surgery – If the cancer is localized to a single general area, surgery is considered the optimal treatment. Surgeons are able to remove a small portion of a lung, an entire diseased lung or the membrane around the lung (mesothelium) to stop the disease.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a single medication or a mixture of medications that are aimed at stopping the growth of cancerous cells. Most treatment are given in cycles ranging between two and six weeks. Chemotherapy is used to both cure and control the disease.
  • Radiation – Radiation treatment is most commonly used when the disease is centrally located and has not metastasized (spread). High-energy particles or waves shrink or kill cancerous cells and tumors. Unlike chemotherapy, which circulates throughout the body, radiation treatment is targeted to a specific location.
  • Clinical Trials – Clinical trials are research studies that allow patients to undergo the most promising treatments. Some of the more effective treatments, such as immunotherapy and gene therapy, are still in the clinical trial phase because the FDA has not yet approved them.

Compensation for Asbestos Cancer

Asbestos cancer patients and their families have access to asbestos trust funds – exclusive financial assistance established under court order in response to companies that used, sold and made products with asbestos and ignored the dangers. The funds can be accessed by both the patient and close family members and used for any reason.

For decades, companies refused to recognize the link between asbestos and deadly cancer. After ample medical research proved the connection, federal judges demanded companies that use asbestos establish trust funds to provide compensation for injured workers and their families. Without the legal system, it is unlikely these companies would have formally recognized the dangers of asbestos and compensated their victims.

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