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Asbestos is a compound that could be potentially all around us. It can be in the walls of our homes, hauls of our boats or jobs we may do can put us at an increased risk. The prognosis for the disease is poor so it is best to reduce your risks early on.

suspicious density on the lungs is a phenomenon that usually leads to more questions than answers. A chest X-ray is not a very precise method of diagnosing a lesion but it can provide clues to as to what to do next. It is up to the radiologist to be able to distinguish lesions of lung cancer from signs of a lung infectionAnother category of diseases that most people may be unaware of would be called parenchymal diseases of the lung. These are conditions caused by things like silicosis or asbestos and will present very differently than a simple lung tumor. Here, we will explore signs of asbestos exposure and all you need to know about this condition. 

When to Consider Asbestos as a Possible Cause of Your Cough

With advances in modern society, many people feel safe with the comforts it provides. Electricity, running water and in-home plumbing are some of the conveniences that make civilized life possible in this day and age but many people fail to realize that there are still numerous dangers that could still be lurking in your house; specifically within the walls of the house. Asbestos is something that we connect to commercials warning the public for potential exposure risks. It is a very dangerous compound that people need to avoid but asbestos was once a popular building material that was used to construct and insulate skyscrapers and homes. [1] There is a good chance that any home built before the 1970s contains this substance so you could be putting yourself at risk every day. 

When inhaled, asbestos increases your chance to develop mesothelioma. Thankfully, it is a rare form of cancer and only represents about 1 percent of all cases but as older homes are being demolished for newer structures, asbestos particles can be dislodged from within the walls of your house and become deadly [2].  It is believed that around 20 million Americans are at a risk annually of getting this disease [3]. 

Symptoms of the disease are similar to other forms of lung cancer where a patient may complain of chest pain and tightness as well as difficulty breathing. There is also a possibility that patients may have significant unintentional weight loss, abdominal pain and ascites due to this condition but these are less common presentations of the disease. [4]

What Can You Do After Having Asbestos Exposure 

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to asbestos, the first step to do is to confirm or exclude the diagnosis. The first step will be to order a chest X-ray. You will not be able to see the asbestos fibers that may be lodged in the lung tissue but you will see a number of suspicious densities on the lungs as well as pleural effusion (liquid) at the base of your lungs [5]. Doctors will then have to order a more conclusive test like a CT scan of your lungs in order to confirm the diagnosis. Biopsies of the lung tissue will also need to be obtained in order to analyze the tissue. [6]

Once the signs of asbestos exposure have been confirmed, doctors will need to act quickly if you have an early stage of the disease. Studies show that surgery and radiation therapy can be potentially curative if the disease is caught early. Unfortunately, this is a rare occasion and the disease is often too advanced before an extensive attack can be launched. In these more advanced cases, chemotherapy is the only option available. Cisplatin is the main agent that will be used but comes with a number of side effects that can make it difficult for patients to tolerate for a long period of time. This can include numbness and shooting pain in your arms and legs as the agent destroys nerves that are in your body as an unfortunate side effect. [7]

If you are diagnosed with an advanced form of mesothelioma, chemotherapy will be a temporary fix for your condition but it is considered to be a fatal disease. In one study done to determine the prognosis of the disease, 1353 patients were followed to determine their survival after a diagnosis was made. At the conclusion of the study, it was determined that the most important prognostic factors were the age of the patient, the subtype of the disease and where it was located in the lungs. Patients with this advanced disease will usually die within the first year of having the disease but nearly 15 percent were still alive after 3 years. [8]

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