Lung cancer is caused by the growth of tumors on the tissues of the lung, most commonly on the tissue surrounding the air passageways. According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2013 alone over 220,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed, and over 150,000 people will die of the disease. In fact, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. While most of these new cases of lung cancer result from smoking, studies have also linked asbestos exposure to an increase in a person’s risk for lung cancer. Non-smokers who suffered exposure to asbestos are five times as likely to develop lung cancer as those who were not exposed. And, smokers who suffered asbestos exposure are between 50 and 90 times as likely to develop lung cancer as non-smokers.
Information on Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells on the lung tissue. It can be particularly difficult to treat and diagnose lung cancer because of its subtle symptoms. Victims of early stage lung cancer often experience few or no symptoms. But, in later stages, as the cancer spreads, the tumors can restrict airways and lead to problems like chronic cough, hoarseness, chest pain, fatigue, difficulty swallowing, and susceptibility to respiratory infection. Although the most prevalent cause of lung cancer is still smoking, asbestos fibers can also irritate lung tissue and lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Lung cancer is classified into two distinct subgroups, small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Doctors distinguish the two by the appearance of the cancer cells at a microscopic level, which affects the manner in which the cells spread throughout the body. Small cell lung cancer spreads much more aggressively, and accounts for approximately one in every five cases of lung cancer. However, small cell lung cancers are most common in smokers and only 1 percent of small cell tumors occur in non-smokers. Conversely, non-small cell lung cancer is not so limited to smokers, and is less aggressive, though still deadly in many instances.
Asbestos as a Cause of Lung Cancer
Asbestos is a mineral made up of long, thin fibers. Throughout much of history people prized it for its flame-retardant properties, which lead to its common use as building material and fireproofing. This pervasive presence caused many different people to be exposed to the material, especially since it spread easily. The fibers of asbestos could cling to people’s clothing causing the area of contamination to widen. This meant that in addition to the danger to people who worked in areas containing asbestos, their families could also be at risk for exposure.
Asbestos fibers enter a person’s body when they breathe them in, and they lodge in a person’s lungs. Because the body cannot eject the asbestos fibers, they stick in the lung for the remainder of the person’s life. Over the course of someone’s life, the fibers damage the tissue of the lung, leading to irritation and scarring, which results in the development of lung cancer.
If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer and believe that you were exposed to asbestos, contact one of our nationwide offices today to gain a fuller picture of the rights and options available to you.