Page Updated: June 13, 2019

Asbestos Cancer Guide

Asbestos cancer is a form of different kinds of cancers that develop after continuous exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma, a disease that affects the lining of the lungs when the fine fibers of the mineral become lodged in the system, is currently the most common and most prevalent form of asbestos cancer.

Other forms of asbestos cancer can affect not only the lungs, but other body parts, such as the stomach, chest, colon, and gastrointestinal system.

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Fill out our form to receive our free Financial Compensation Packet. Our packet is loaded with information on leading mesothelioma attorneys in your area, how to file a claim for asbestos trust funds, how to get paid in 90 days, and more. 

asbestos fibers


Mesothelioma differs from other types of lung-related cancers in that it is the only disease that that is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. People contract mesothelioma by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers.

After the fibers are in the body’s system for a while, DNA damage occurs which leads to tumors in the lungs, abdomen, and other parts of the body, with the lungs being the most common part of the body for mesothelioma development.

Mesothelioma can also develop from some forms of radiation therapy as well as through second-hand contact, such as the clothing worn by a family member who worked around asbestos. Yet, direct and prolonged asbestos exposure remains the leading cause of mesothelioma.

The disease almost always lies dormant for several decades, anywhere from 20 to 50 years before victims begin to experience the first warning signs. In many cases, mesothelioma has already moved into a later stage of the disease before victims get a proper diagnosis.

Since the first signs of the disease are often confused with the flu or pneumonia, mesothelioma can go undiagnosed for a long time, making prognosis grim once its diagnosed. In addition, many victims may actually have recurring  pneumonia and/or bronchitis because of mesothelioma, which further confuses a proper diagnosis with more common diseases.

Although the majority of malignant mesothelioma patients have been subjected to long-term asbestos exposure, in certain situations, victims have been exposed to asbestos for only a short amount of time before contracting mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.

Some studies have also suggested, as previously mentioned, that individuals run the risk of asbestos exposure just by washing the clothes of someone who has been around it or coming into daily contact with anyone working around asbestos.

Teachers, staff members, and student also risk developing mesothelioma if they are in school buildings that were built with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). This type of exposure is rare though, as state and federal laws are set up to ensure each school maintains an asbestos management plan at all times.

Mesothelioma also differs from other types of lung cancers in that victims never contract the disease from tobacco products.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Rough breathing sounds
  • Reduction in chest expansion when inhaling
  • Dyspnea
  • Hacking, dry coughing, or wheezing
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting

Prognosis of Mesothelioma

Since there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, the prognosis for victims of mesothelioma is not favorable. However, with the advancement of several treatment options, many patients can go on to live many years after diagnosis.

Each case is unique and will depend upon the stage of the disease and the physical and mental health of the patient. A combination of a strong treatment plan and a healthy diet can help increase the patient’s life span. In addition, several patients have turned to meditation and other holistic treatments, and have reported favorable outcomes.

Asbestos-related Lung Cancer

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), lung cancer, one of most prevalent types of cancers in the world, is one of the greatest risks for American workers who have been exposed to asbestos.

Thousands of workers die each year as a result of asbestos-related lung cancer, and these numbers are expected to increase as more people begin to hit the timeline in which asbestos-related symptoms start to show up.

One of the biggest differences between asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma is that individuals who smoke cigarettes, pipes, or cigars are much more likely to develop asbestos-related lung cancer, but smoking doesn’t factor into an increased risk of mesothelioma.

Symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer consist of:

  • Dry coughs and hacking
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Lung and chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, chills, and throat pain
  • Frequent episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Face and neck swelling
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Pain that worsens when inhaling
  • A gargling-type sound when inhaling, accompanied by pain

Other Forms of Asbestos Cancer

A few other forms of cancer have also been linked to asbestos. Although the evidence is still being researched, preliminary studies suggested that asbestos has the potential to form cancer in the colon, gastrointestinal system, throat, esophagus, and gallbladder.

Common Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Cancer

The most common occupations in which workers were exposed to asbestos include engineers, mechanics, carpenters, maritime workers, construction workers, firefighters, plumbers, roofers, HVAC workers, factory workers, paper mill workers, and military personnel prior to the early 1980s.

Workers were exposed to different types of asbestos depending upon occupation, such as Amosite, Chrysotile, and Crocidolite. Almost all victims of mesothelioma had prolonged exposure at work, for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Moreover, victims are typically older males ages 60 and older, although mesothelioma can affect anyone at any age. For example, as mentioned earlier, teachers and even students are at a slight risk if the school building was created prior to the asbestos ban.

However, older males are more apt to develop mesothelioma because of the occupations associated with asbestos use. Most job sites were male-dominated when exposure occurred.

Naturally-occurring Asbestos

Sometimes those who’ve never worked around asbestos but live close to naturally occurring asbestos will develop asbestos cancer. For example, citizens of three villages in Turkey were dying at an alarming rate due to exposure to natural asbestos that was scattered around the small towns of  Karain,  Sarıhıdır, and Tuzköy. In fact, 50% of all deaths occurring in these villages were from asbestos cancer.

Diagnosing Asbestos Cancer

Diagnosing asbestos cancer can be problematic as the signs and symptoms tend to mimic a variety of other common diseases. Therefore, a complete medical history, along with your entire work history, should be provided to your physician right away. If a doctor knows that you have a history of asbestos exposure right away, it can speed up the diagnosis process.

X-rays, a CT scan, and/or a MRI scan is usually performed next, which gives doctors a detailed look around the chest cavity and other internal body parts. If abnormal cells or a thickened pleura is found, a syringe or a chest tube is inserted into the patient’s body. It’s  used to gather the fluid in the infected areas of the body, which will then be evaluated for cancerous cells and tumors.

If malignant cells are found, a biopsy usually follows. A biopsy allows the physician to remove a small part of the infected area in order for a pathologist to study it. A biopsy is almost always needed in order to confirm a positive diagnosis for mesothelioma.

Screening for Asbestos Cancer

Currently, there is no official or universal method of screening for asbestos cancer, even though an early screening would help doctors diagnose the disease much earlier than the methods used today. However, some physicians are testing out the Mesomark assay screening, an in-vitro test that measures soluble mesothelin proteins. Mesothelin-related proteins are released by infected mesothelioma cells.

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers are considered new in the medical world, but as more research continues, a better, more successful screening method may surface.

If You’ve Been Diagnosed

Remember, if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may qualify for significant compensation.Remember to fill out our form to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. If you need additional assistance, contact us toll-free at 800-793-4540.