Asbestos has been a part of human civilization for thousands of years. However, in the modern era, we learned that it could actually be inhaled with ease and responsible for a whole host of diseases.
By far the most recognized disease caused by asbestos is mesothelioma. This cancer is almost always the result of asbestos exposure and is responsible for over 3,000 deaths a year just in the United States.
The name is a reference to the protective lining of the lungs, heart, stomach or testicles where mesothelioma can develop. Chest and/or abdominal pain and difficult breathing are almost always symptoms though others will depend on where specifically the mesothelioma develops.
On the other hand, mesothelioma is rarely responsible for lung cancer. When it does cause lung cancer, the symptoms are practically indistinguishable from the kind caused by other issues. Smokers who were also exposed to asbestos face an increased chance of developing non-small cell or small cell lung cancer.
It took until 2009, but researchers have finally confirmed that asbestos exposure can result in ovarian cancer. At this time, though, we still don’t know how asbestos reaches a woman’s ovaries. More than likely, though, it gets there through the bloodstream, though it could also travel there through the reproductive tract or lymph system.
This rare form of cancer is proven to sometimes be the result of asbestos exposure. The longer someone was exposed, the higher their chances of developing this type of cancer. However, smoking and drinking are both more likely to be the culprit.
This benign lung disease is extremely deadly and causes severe scarring of the lung tissue, as well as inflammation. These two issues can keep the lungs from expanding and contracting like they normally would. That’s why many people suffering from asbestosis have a hard time battling shortness of breath.
Again, this is a benign disease, but that doesn’t make it any less deadly. Between 2000 and 2007, asbestosis played a contributing role in the death of over 1,400 Americans.
When fluid is able to build up between the pleural layers, this can be a symptom of mesothelioma in its later stages. All by itself, this buildup, called pleural effusions, isn’t life-threatening. However, over time, this buildup can interfere with normal breathing or even cause severe pain. A very specific operation known as a talc pleurodesis has to be carried out in order to relieve this buildup.
These benign growths aren’t actually lethal, but they can make breathing extremely painful. They are fairly common in people who have been exposed to asbestos and are calcified bodies that attach to the pleura.
Another way the pleura can get affected by asbestos is through pleuritis. Asbestos can result in the pleura developing massive amounts of inflammation. When these develop, breathing often becomes unbearable. Sharp pains can also be felt in the chest or shoulder. It’s common for pleuritis to be present along with pleural effusions.
Diffuse Pleural Thickening
Exposure to asbestos can result in lesions appearing all along the pleural lining and causing the entire area to thicken. It’s only fatal if it grows so large that it’s able to prevent sufficient airflow to the lungs. Otherwise, it will just limit the patient’s full ability to breathe.
This inflammatory condition, pleural thickening often occurs. Atelactasis usually occurs alongside pleural thickening. The scar tissue from atelactasis can cause lungs to fold in on themselves
With so many different diseases possible, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you believe you were ever exposed to asbestos in the past. As you can see, these diseases are extremely deadly.