Lung Cancer Caused by Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that, when reduced to a fiber form, is soft, flexible, and resistant to heat and electricity. For these reasons, asbestos fibers were commonly used in the manufacturing of cement, plastic, and other materials in the 20th century.
It was not until the 1970s that experts fully recognized the dangers of asbestos dust. When inhaled or ingested, asbestos dust can lead to scarring, inflammation, and genetic damage to the body’s cells. Since that time, asbestos exposure has been linked to a number of deadly diseases, including lung cancer.
An alarming number of people have been unknowingly exposed to asbestos. This exposure creates a serious risk for developing lung cancer. The companies and organizations responsible for exposing individuals to asbestos can be held liable for their failure to protect employees and others from exposure to these dangerous fibers.
If you have discovered that you have lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, you should contact an experienced asbestos litigation attorney at The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., who can evaluate your claim and explain your legal options. The claim review is free and confidential.
How Does Asbestos Cause Lung Cancer?
Asbestos can be either inhaled or ingested. In either case, dangerous microscopic asbestos fibers can become lodged in the mucus in a person’s throat, windpipe, or breathing tubes in the lungs.
Many of these fibers are cleared by being swallowed or coughed up, but some find their way to the small airways in the lungs or penetrate the outer lining of the chest wall and lung. These fibers begin to irritate the cells in the lungs and can eventually cause permanent genetic and cellular damage to healthy lung cells.
According to data provided by the American Cancer Society, it can take between 15 and 30 years from a person’s initial exposure to asbestos before he or she will begin experiencing symptoms. Due to this extended latency period, many of those who are diagnosed with lung cancer were actually exposed to asbestos decades ago.
Individuals who are employed in the mining, construction, shipbuilding, and firefighting industries are particularly at risk of suffering from asbestos exposure-related lung cancers.
Asbestos Lung Cancer Symptoms
The types of symptoms experienced by a person who is suffering from lung cancer depend on a number of different factors, including how much the disease has progressed, whether the patient smokes, and the individual’s age.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, however, there are some symptoms that most lung cancer patients experience across the board, including:
- A worsening cough
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath, hoarseness, and wheezing
- A loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Chronic respiratory infections
- Swelling of the head or neck
Asbestos lung cancer is diagnosed through physical examination, lab tests, and imaging. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, the parties can move forward with a treatment regimen, which, depending on the type and stage of the disease, could include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these options.
Asbestos Lung Cancer Treatment
Most lung cancer treatment regimens involve multi-faceted approaches, in which physicians use a number of different kinds of treatment. For instance, radiation, which is a high energy x-ray that damages the ability of cancerous cells to multiply, is included in many lung cancer patient’s treatment plans.
Most healthcare providers, however, use radiation only in combination with another form of treatment, unless a patient is not able to tolerate surgery or someone’s cancer is advanced and treatment is aimed only at managing symptoms.
Alternatively, radiation combined with chemotherapy is often used in cases that involve large tumors or cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy is a form of drug treatment that reduces tumor mass and is administered through injection or placement of the drugs directly into the chest or abdomen. It is not uncommon for chemotherapy to be combined with radiation, as chemotherapy can make the radiation more effective.
Surgery also often plays a key role in lung cancer treatment, especially in early-stage cases, where a surgeon could remove part of the lung to eradicate the disease. In more advanced tumors, surgery is often replaced by or combined with chemotherapy and radiation.
Asbestos Lung Cancer Survival Rate
The prognosis for lung cancer depends on a few different factors, including the patient’s overall health, the degree the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis, and the subtype of cancer in question.
According to the American Lung Association, around 20 percent of lung cancer patients survive more than five years after being diagnosed, while more than half pass away within one year. The statistics for people who are suffering from asbestos lung cancer are even more alarming, as these types of cancers are often diagnosed too late for early intervention.
Your Options for Filing an Asbestos Lung Cancer Lawsuit
The cost of treating asbestos-related cancer is expensive. Fortunately, there are a few different types of financial assistance qualifying patients could be eligible for. For instance, following the discovery of the dangers of exposure to asbestos, a number of employees and consumers who had been diagnosed with lung cancer and other diseases filed lawsuits against the employers responsible for the exposure. In response, many companies were forced to file for bankruptcy. Before doing so, however, many of these companies were required to establish asbestos trusts that would pay out future claims even after their doors had closed.
Even when this type of trust does not exist, a person could still recover damages by filing a claim directly against the responsible business in court, at which point, the company will either attempt to settle the claim or refute the accusations. In the latter case, the injured party will need to take the case to court and prove that the defendant’s actions led to his or her exposure to asbestos.
Under Massachusetts law, employees may able to collect compensation from their employers by applying for workers’ compensation benefits if they were exposed in the workplace. Social Security disability benefits and veterans disability benefits may also be available, depending on your situation.
Talk to an Asbestos Lung Cancer Lawyer Now
If you have questions about what type of lung cancer is caused by asbestos, or concerns about filing a claim against the organization responsible for your own exposure to this dangerous substance, please contact one of the dedicated asbestos litigation attorneys at The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., today.