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Exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, pharyngeal cancer, and other deadly diseases. The fireproofing properties of asbestos and its high resistance to heat have made this material very popular in the construction industry. This naturally-occurring mineral is processed into flexible fibers that can be woven together to manufacture hundreds of different products such as fertilizers, insulating materials, mittens, textile garments, and stone corrugated sheets.
Who Is at Risk for Asbestos Exposure?
This miracle material has been commercially used in many industries, including the automotive industry, the construction industry, and the military industry. Certain jobs are more likely to result in asbestos exposure than others. Boilermakers, mechanical engineers, firefighters, roofers, electricians, and iron workers are at high risk. Those who worked as chemical technicians, sawyers, and painters may develop asbestos-related diseases as well.
Asbestos Exposure Symptoms
People who have been exposed to asbestos at work for long periods of time present a greater risk for asbestos exposure. This mineral consists of microscopic fibers that may cause scarring and inflammation when inhaled. Asbestos-related diseases take decades to develop. Asbestosis and mesothelioma manifest themselves 15 or more years after the first exposure.
The health conditions caused by exposure to asbestos are difficult to diagnose and treat because they have non-specific symptoms that can vary greatly from one patient to another. The main symptoms associated with asbestos exposure include chest pain, shortness of breath, recurring lung infections, weight loss, fever, anemia, blood in the sputum, wheezing, fatigue, palpitations, arrhythmia, and breathing difficulties.
The source of the exposure, as well as the amount of asbestos you were exposed to and the size and shape of asbestos fibers, should be considered when evaluating your risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Recent studies have suggested a link between exposure to asbestos and cancers of the kidney, gallbladder, esophagus, and throat. Pleura thickening, calcification, and plaques may occur as well.
Asbestos exposure is responsible for the development of mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive disease. Each year this lethal cancer affects 14 to 30 people out of every million. Mesothelioma occurs in the chest cavity, heart, or abdomen. It affects the mesothelium, a thin layer of cells that surround the body's internal organs. Over 85 percent of the individuals diagnosed with this form of cancer have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos.
The most common symptoms indicating asbestos cancer or mesothelioma include chest wall pain, pleural effusion, shortness of breath, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, anemia, painful coughing, and breathing difficulties. These symptoms may also indicate less serious diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Mesothelioma manifests itself 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure. Patients diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that starts in the abdomen, may experience severe abdominal pain, lumps of tissue in the abdomen, problems with bowel function, and ascites.
One of the most common asbestos related diseases is asbestosis. This health condition causes scarring of the thin membrane covering the chest and lungs. Its main symptoms include dyspnea (shortness of breath), intermittent chest pain, finger deformity (clubbing), coughing, and respiratory failure. This disease manifests itself 20 to 30 years after exposure to asbestos. It usually occurs in people who have been exposed to high levels of asbestos over a long period of time.
Statistics indicate an increase in lung cancer among people who worked with asbestos-containing products. Exposure to this material is a key factor in the development of lung cancer for those who smoke. While up to 25 percent of all lung cancer patients have no symptoms at all, others may experience repeated respiratory infections, chest pain, chronic cough, back pain, decreased appetite, hoarseness, and paralysis of the vocal cords.
Over 45 published studies have suggested an association between asbestos exposure and esophageal, gastric and colorectal cancer. Patients diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer caused by exposure to this material experience constipation or diarrhea, severe weight loss, nausea, bloating, and change in bowel habits. This form of cancer develops in the lining of the stomach and then spreads to other organs in the body.
Exposure to asbestos may lead to a number of deadly diseases. Being diagnosed in early stages can prolong your life and alleviate pain. If you present any of the symptoms described above, talk with your doctor. Fill in the form below to receive a free information packet that will help you recognize the main symptoms associated with mesothelioma.