Ever since studies in the 1960s found links between asbestos exposure and lung cancer, a whole range of industries have worked to reduce the possibility of it affecting worker’s health.
Unfortunately, the last form of asbestos material was only banned in the UK in 1999, meaning that there are plenty of people who have worked with the harmful substance until very recently.
If you feel you might have worked with asbestos at some point or are interested in its relation to lung cancer, here is our easy to follow explanation below.
Asbestos was a popular and flexible material which was used in a number of industries such as construction, engineering and electronics as either an insulant or a fireproofing material.
The problem arises when the material is even slightly disturbed, cracked, chipped or allowed to deteriorate. This releases its micro fibres into the air which, if inhaled over a prolonged period, potentially leave unrepairable damage.
These fibres eventually become embedded in the lining of the lungs. This causes inflammation of the pleura (a membrane around the lungs) and genetic damage over time, potentially developing tumours.
Asbestos Related Cancer
While there are a number of different lung cancers, mesothelioma is cancer which develops as a result of asbestos exposure.
The warning signs come much earlier however, through a disease called asbestosis, which, over time, often develops into mesothelioma, pleural disease or other lung cancers.
If you are aware that you might have been exposed to asbestos for a considerable amount of time then it is wiseto gofor a check-up anyway, but if you suffer from any of these symptoms, you may already suffer from asbestosis:
– Persistent wheezing
– Regular chest pain
– Shortness of breath
– Extreme tiredness
– Swollen fingertips (in advanced cases)
Mesothelioma can sometimes develop in the stomach too. The symptoms of this regularly include:
– Loss of appetite
– Consistent nausea or sickness
– Unexplained weight loss
– Tummy pain or swelling
– Constipation or diarrhoea.
Unlike many diseases, which develop quickly as a result of something, asbestosis and mesothelioma take years to develop. Mesothelioma typically takes around 20 years from the initial exposure to develop.
How Mesothelioma is Diagnosed
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, a medical professional may put you through any of these processes to determine your diagnosis:
– Laparoscopy: The affected area is examined through the use of a long thin camera, inserted through a small incision. Sometimes a small piece of tissue may be removed to analyse further.
– CT Scan: A number of X-ray images are taken in order to gather a detailed image of the inside of your body, specifically the area/areas potentially affected.
– Fluid drainage: If there is a build-up of fluid around the lungs, a needle can be injected to remove a sample.
Sadly, the outlook for those diagnosed with mesothelioma tends to be worse than many cancers. This is at least in part to it not having obvious individual defining symptoms until the later, more progressive stages.
NHS statistics say around 50% of people with mesothelioma live at least a year after their diagnosis. They also say that just 1 in 10 will live for at least five years after diagnosis.
Each year there are around 2,500 deaths as a result of mesothelioma in the UK.
Because this cancer is a result of a lack of protection in the workplace, the question of accountability has generated more support since the ban.
There is justifiably plenty of support behind any sufferers who are looking for compensation or support. You only have to look at the scheme announced by the UK government last year.
There is also plenty of support from places like Asbestos Advice Helpline, which offers free advice to those suffering.