What Diseases are Caused by Asbestos?


Asbestos is a deadly mineral. When people are exposed to asbestos, they inhale the fibers, which the body cannot get rid of on its own. These fibers then become lodged in different parts of the body, usually the lungs and abdomen, although they sometimes become stuck in the lining of the heart, as well.

When these fibers enter the body, a person may suffer from a number of illnesses. It’s important to know what illnesses are caused by asbestos exposure, as there may be compensation available for victims of asbestos-related diseases.

If you believe you’ve become ill due to asbestos exposure, it’s important you speak to a Boston asbestos attorney who can help you claim any compensation you deserve. Contact The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., now for a free consultation about your legal options.

What Diseases Are Caused by Asbestos?

Diseases caused by asbestos are either benign or malignant. Malignant diseases are cancerous. Although benign diseases are not cancerous, they are still sometimes life-threatening, particularly when they are caused by asbestos.

The most common malignant diseases related to asbestos exposure include:

  • Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Pharyngeal cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Colon cancer

The most common benign asbestos-related diseases include:

  • Hyaline pleural plaques
  • Asbestosis
  • Pleural thickening
  • Pleural effusion
  • Atelectasis
  • Peritoneal effusion
  • Pericardial effusion

These are just some of the most common illnesses related to asbestos exposure. Anyone who has been exposed to asbestos regularly should watch for signs of any illness and contact their doctor if they notice any signs or symptoms.


Of all the asbestos-related illnesses, mesothelioma is one of the most serious. There are different types of mesothelioma depending on where the cancer develops in the body. Each type of mesothelioma is very aggressive and the prognosis for those diagnosed with it is very poor.

  • Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type that is regularly diagnosed. This type of mesothelioma gets its name because it is caused by asbestos fibers that are lodged in the pleura, or the lining of the lungs. This type of cancer is typically treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which can add months or even years to a patient’s life expectancy. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, fever, and fatigue.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma is not as common as pleural mesothelioma, as it makes up only 10 to 20 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Although there hasn’t been as much research on this type of cancer as there has been on pleural mesothelioma, the prognosis for this disease is usually better, with patients experiencing longer life expectancies. This cancer is caused by asbestos fibers that become lodged in the abdomen. Symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling, bloating, loss of appetite, and bowel changes.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer. There are only approximately 200 cases included in medical literature. This type of mesothelioma is caused by asbestos fibers that are lodged in the lining of the heart. Prognosis is very poor, with patients typically having a life expectancy of six weeks to 15 months. Symptoms of this type of mesothelioma include an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
  • Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest form of this type of cancer. This type of mesothelioma is caused when asbestos fibers become lodged in the lining of the testes. There are fewer than 100 of these cases documented in medical literature. With surgery and chemotherapy, patients can have life expectancies of over two years. Symptoms of this disease include swelling in the scrotum and painless lumps in the testes.
  • Lung cancer is another disease that is often caused by asbestos exposure. Individuals most at risk are those that have worked directly with materials containing asbestos, such as construction workers, or people who worked in places that used asbestos in different materials.

Asbestos-related lung cancer has a long latency period. This means that even if you were exposed to asbestos 10 or more years ago, it’s still possible to trace your diagnosis back to that time. Symptoms of this disease include shortness of breath, consistent coughing that becomes worse over time, coughing up blood, hoarseness, chest pain, and fatigue.

  • Asbestosis is another disease of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure. Most individuals diagnosed with this disease worked with asbestos regularly before the government began regulating its use in the 1970s. Typically, symptoms of this disease do not present themselves for 10 to 40 years. Those symptoms are similar to other asbestos-related diseases and include shortness of breath, consistent cough, loss of appetite, fingertips and toes that appear wider and rounder than normal, tightness or pain in the chest.

Diagnosing Asbestos-Related Diseases

Diagnosing asbestos-related diseases can be difficult. This is typically because many people aren’t even aware that they were exposed to asbestos. Additionally, the symptoms of these diseases mimic the symptoms of many other diseases. For example, asthma and pneumonia present many of the same symptoms as asbestosis and certain types of lung cancer.

Even after detecting scarring in the lung tissue, this only tells the doctor that there is some type of lung disease present. Once this is detected, physicians will typically order many imaging tests to fully detect which type of disease is present. The first of these is typically chest x-rays, which will show opaque areas on the lungs if there is scarring present. CT scans are also used when x-ray results are unclear.

To diagnose asbestos-related diseases, it is crucial that patients determine if they were exposed to asbestos. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to test for this. If you think you have an asbestos-related disease, you should consider whether you lived or worked in environments that contained asbestos. You should also think about any homes you frequently visited that may have contained asbestos.

Additionally, if anyone in your home worked around asbestos, you are also vulnerable to developing an asbestos-related disease due to secondhand exposure. When people work around asbestos, the fibers can stick to their clothing, shoes, and even tools. You and others in your home can then potentially inhale the fibers and develop an asbestos-related disease.

What to Do If You Have Been Diagnosed with an Asbestos Disease

Being diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease is incredibly stressful. You will likely start to think about many different things at once. You may not understand what you should do next.

Below are a few of the steps you should take after being diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.

  • Learn about the diagnosis and treatment. It’s important to understand your disease and how serious it is, as it can help you prepare for treatment. Your doctor will likely explain some of this to you after your diagnosis. There are also many reliable sources online that can provide additional information. Ask your healthcare team what sources are reputable and reliable.
  • Get a second opinion. You may trust your doctor very much, but it never hurts to get a second opinion, particularly when you’ve been diagnosed with such a serious disease. Most doctors are happy to offer a second opinion, and some insurance policies even require it.
  • Choose a treatment center. Your doctor will likely tell you about many treatment centers that can provide the treatment you need. When choosing one, consider how you will get back and forth from appointments, how experienced the center is with your disease, and what services it can offer not only you, but your family as well. Many chemotherapy centers allow someone to sit with you during treatment. Also consider who you will ask to keep you company, or to ask questions and take notes.
  • Designate an area for your health records. You’ll deal with a lot of paperwork after a diagnosis pertaining to an asbestos-related disease. You’ll receive test results, treatment information, and names and contact information of different doctors. You should keep all of this information in one place so it’s organized and easy to access for you and your loved ones.
  • Organize your health insurance. Your health insurance will play a big role during your treatment. Read your policy or contact your health insurance company to find out what your copayments and deductibles are. If you don’t have health insurance, find out if you are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Get support. No one can go through a serious disease like those related to asbestos without support. Speak to your friends and family, go to counseling, or find organizations that offer services such as support groups for those suffering from your condition.
  • Make your wishes known. Tragically, patients suffering from an asbestos-related disease typically lose their battle with it. Discuss your wishes with your loved ones. Also consider preparing an advance directive in case you become unable to communicate your wishes.

Many of these steps are not easy to take. However, they are important and can help make you feel more in control of your diagnosis and your treatment.

Talk to an Asbestos Illness Lawyer Now

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, it’s important you speak to a Boston asbestos attorney as soon as possible.

At The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., we can inform you about the many trust funds available that you may qualify for. We will also explore other legal options with you, such as whether you can file a personal injury lawsuit or if you are eligible for workers’ compensation or veterans’ benefits. All of these options can help with the many medical expenses you will incur, lost income, and more.

Call us today so we can get started on your case.