In this guide we will answer frequently asked questions about asbestos-related lung cancer.
- Can asbestos cause lung cancer?
- What is asbestos-related lung cancer?
- Why does asbestos cause lung cancer?
- What are the symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer?
- How is asbestos-related lung cancer diagnosed?
- How much exposure to asbestos is required to develop asbestos-related lung cancer?
- Who is at risk from asbestos-related lung cancer?
- Do I need to have asbestosis to have asbestos-related lung cancer?
- Can I have asbestos-related lung cancer even though I smoked?
- Types of lung cancer from asbestos
- Mesothelioma vs asbestos-related lung cancer
- Life expectancy after diagnosis with asbestos-related lung cancer
- Treatment for asbestos-related lung cancer
- Can I claim compensation for asbestos-related lung cancer?
Yes, exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer.
Asbestos-related lung cancer is a rare form of lung cancer caused or contributed to by exposure to asbestos. It is commonly diagnosed at a late stage because the time period between exposure and the onset of symptoms is rarely less than 20 or 30 years. If someone has been a smoker, the cause of the lung cancer may be initially attributed to smoking rather than asbestos exposure.
When products or materials containing asbestos are disturbed, microscopic fibres are released into the air. If the asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lung tissue. Asbestos lung cancer is the result of the development of tumours which develop over a period of 20 to 40 years.
Both asbestos-related lung cancer and other lung cancers present the same general symptoms:
- Persistent coughing
- Hoarseness or wheezing
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain and discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of the neck or face.
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, or you have a known history of asbestos exposure, it is important to undergo frequent check-ups with your GP and request regular x-rays and/or scans every two to three years to check for asbestos disease.
A diagnosis of lung cancer will be made by a chest consultant following investigations which usually include:
- A bronchoscopy
- A CT scan
- A PET scan.
The consultant may recommend a bronchoscopy if an x-ray shows something abnormal. A bronchoscopy involves inserting a narrow flexible tube down your nose or throat to examine the airways.
In addition, they may request a CT scan or PET scan, which takes pictures of the inside of the body and provides much more information. If these tests lead to a diagnosis of asbestos lung cancer, further tests may be required to see whether the cancer has spread and help the consultant decide on the best course of treatment.
It's important when you're having investigations to make sure you tell your GP and any other health care professionals about any history of asbestos exposure.
The minimum asbestos exposure required to cause lung cancer is currently uncertain. However, we do know that repeated and long-term exposure increases the risk of developing lung cancer from asbestos. Because of this, your level of exposure to asbestos will be important to determine whether your lung cancer is asbestos related.
Asbestos exposure is assessed using the Helsinki criteria in order to determine whether it caused lung cancer. According to the criteria, exposure to asbestos dust to the level of 25 fibre/ml years must have occurred to be considered asbestos-related lung cancer.
This is the equivalent of roughly one year’s heavy exposure to asbestos dust (for example, working as an asbestos lagger for one year), or 5-10 years of moderate exposure to asbestos dust (such as working as a carpenter cutting asbestos sheets or working near someone who was).
To make a successful legal claim for asbestos related lung cancer you will need to show significant exposure to asbestos.
Workers involved in maintenance, refurbishment, and other similar trades, could be at risk of exposure to asbestos. This includes: