Roughly 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer annually. While lung cancer is widely known as the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, few realize that asbestos-related lung cancer accounts for four percent of total lung cancer fatalities.

Medical researchers first made the connection between asbestos exposure and lung cancer in 1935. By 1986, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proclaimed lung cancer as the greatest risk to Americans who worked with asbestos. Today, it is also known that asbestos lung cancer is most prevalent among workers exposed to asbestos who also smoke.

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Used commercially since the late 1800s, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in homes, the workplace and the environment. Today, asbestos is highly regulated and considered a human carcinogen in many countries, including the United States.

When an individual is exposed to asbestos or asbestos-containing products, microscopic fibers are released into the air. If inhaled, these thin fibers can become trapped in the lungs. After prolonged exposure, asbestos can accumulate and cause inflammation, scarring and critical health issues in the lungs. In some cases, the release of asbestos fibers can even trigger the development of asbestos lung cancer, mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.

Risk Factors

People most at risk for developing asbestos lung cancer are those who have been exposed to asbestos in a confined area for an extended period of time, often for several years. Workers in certain trades and professions are more at risk for exposure to asbestos-containing products. According to the Mesothelioma Center, occupations most at risk for asbestos exposure, and therefore asbestos-related diseases, include:

  • Power plant workers
  • Auto mechanics
  • Construction workers
  • Insulation installers
  • Roofers
  • Tilers
  • Plumbers
  • Paper mill and textile workers
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Toll collectors
  • Linotype technicians

Note: Veterans are another key group at risk of developing asbestos lung cancer due to exposure to asbestos-containing products used on ships, submarines, tanks, planes and barracks.

Smoking, when coupled with asbestos exposure, can greatly increase the risk of an individual developing asbestos lung cancer. Smoking weakens the lungs, contributing to the negative health effects related to asbestos exposure. Smoking or asbestos exposure alone can cause lung cancer; however, taken together, asbestos and smoking dramatically increase an individual’s risk of developing lung cancer. In fact, The National Cancer Institute declared that asbestos-exposed workers who quit smoking can reduce their risk of developing asbestos lung cancer by as much as 50 percent within five years.

Signs, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Asbestos lung cancer often begins in the lining of the bronchi, the tubes into which the trachea (or windpipe) divides. However, asbestos lung cancer can also begin in other areas such as the trachea, bronchioles (small branches of the bronchi), or alveoli (lung air sacs). Although lung cancer often takes years to develop, individuals with asbestos lung cancer may not initially have any symptoms.  However, the following symptoms may be indicative of asbestos lung cancer:

  • Shortness of breath, asthma or hoarseness
  • Persistent cough
  • Blood in the fluid coughed up from the lungs
  • Pain or tightening in the chest
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the neck or face
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue or anemia

A chest x-ray is a common tool used to detect asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestos lung cancer. However, studies have shown that computed tomography (also known as a CT scan) and lung biopsies may be more effective at detecting asbestos-related lung abnormalities in individuals who have been exposed to asbestos.  Asbestos fibers may also be detected in urine, mucus, or feces.

Treatment and Protection

Individuals seeking treatment for asbestos lung cancer are met with a variety of treatment options, similar to those with other forms of cancer. However, reducing the level of exposure to asbestos and smoking cessation are two of the most effective methods of prevention when it comes to asbestos lung cancer.

Workers concerned about asbestos exposure in the workplace should discuss the situation with other employees, their employee health and safety representative, and their employers.

Filing a Claim

If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to and injured by asbestos or an asbestos-containing product, contact Ward Black Law today. The law limits the time within which you must act. Our attorneys may be able to help you receive the benefits you deserve and take action against responsible parties.

Our experienced legal team has successfully represented more than 800 people with asbestos-related diseases, many of whom worked in power plants in North and South Carolina. Our asbestos lawyers have more than 20 years’ experience getting compensation for people with asbestos lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.

If you have been exposed to asbestos or have been diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer, our asbestos attorneys are standing by at 336-333-2244 or toll-free: 800-531-9191 to take your call. You may also reach Ward Black Law by email or online inquiry.