Asbestos is a common mineral which has been used throughout history as an insulation material and as a fire retardant. While the connection between asbestos and illness has been known for thousands of years, the correlation between asbestos and cancer was only officially acknowledged in the last century.
Types of Asbestos Cancer
Asbestos cancer, the most notorious form of which is pleural mesothelioma, can also affect the abdominal cavity, heart, colorectal and gastrointestinal systems. Studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC) have shown that exposure to asbestos can also increase a person’s risk for developing lung, gallbladder, throat, kidney, esophagus, breast and prostate cancer, as well as lymphomas and leukemia.
Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive asbestos cancer that develops in the cells that line many of the body’s internal organs, known as mesothelial cells. Roughly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the cells that line the lungs, known as the pleura. Mesothelioma can also attack the cells that line the peritoneum (abdominal cavity) and the pericardium (lining of the heart). In very rare cases of peritoneal mesothelioma, mesothelioma can affect the cellular lining of the testicles.
Asbestos Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is another disease that can be caused by asbestos exposure. While many people think of mesothelioma as a lung cancer, it is not technically classified as such because it affects the mesothelial cells that line the lungs and not the lungs themselves. There are two types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer affects roughly 80 percent of patients, while small-cell lung cancer is the more aggressive form of the two.
Common lung cancer symptoms are similar to mesothelioma symptoms, and can include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Anyone who displays these symptoms for a prolonged period of time and who has been exposed to asbestos should consult a doctor to rule out lung cancer or mesothelioma.