During the 1940s up to the 1980s asbestos was used in various commodities and construction materials including roofing, tiling, cement pipes, electric switchboards, home and office insulation, etc. Over time, it was noted that asbestos exposure poses certain health hazards. Asbestos fibers can accumulate in the lungs and cause scarring and inflammation. This can lead to serious health problems requiring treatment methods such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery.
People can be exposed to asbestos in their homes, communities or workplace. If products that contain asbestos are disturbed, asbestos fibers are released into the air. When breathed in, these fibers get trapped in the lungs. As more and more asbestos fibers accumulate, they cause inflammation and scarring. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The people at risk are those involved in ship breaking, building renovation, and dismantling anything that contains asbestos especially when they do not follow the proper procedures.
Diseases related to asbestos exposure can take 15 to 40 years to develop. Early detection and treatment is the only way to contain the disease.
Asbestosis is caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers over prolonged periods of time. It is a chronic lung disease that takes around 15 to 20 years for symptoms to appear. Symptoms of asbestosis may include shortness of breath, constant dry cough, difficulty in breathing, pain in the chest, excess phlegm and pulmonary hypertension. Persons with asbestosis are more prone to pneumonia and bronchitis.
At present, there is no cure for asbestosis. Treatments are available to manage the symptoms but not the disease. It is important, though, to stop exposure to asbestos fibers as well as to dust, smoke and other irritants. Persons suffering from this disease must be regularly vaccinated against flu and pneumonia. Any respiratory infection can easily lead to serious complications.
Lung Cancer Treatment
Long term exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer. The symptoms include dry and irritating cough, chest pain, increase in sputum production, blood mixed with sputum and lung infection.
Treatment for lung cancer depends on the location and size of the tumor, and how much the cancer has spread. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy can be used to kill cancer cells. Another treatment option is surgery where a part of the lung or an entire lung may be removed.
Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal form of lung cancer. It affects the pleura or lung lining. It can take 30 to 40 years to develop. Some of the symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, constant pain in the chest, unexplained weight loss and unexplained sudden abdominal swelling and pain.
It has the same treatment as that for lung cancer, namely radiation therapy, chemotherapy or surgery.
If you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, it is advisable to have yourself diagnosed by a surgeon who specializes in asbestos exposure cases. Early detection is your best protection against diseases caused by asbestos exposure. With an early diagnosis and asbestos exposure treatment, you can increase your chances of containing the disease.