Asbestos is the only known cause of pleural mesothelioma. Asbestos can also cause other asbestos diseases such as lung cancer and asbestosis.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals commonly used in asbestos insulation and building materials such as flooring, ceilings, roofing, automotive parts and other construction materials.
Asbestos is known for its heat resistance, strength, and versatility. Asbestos is extremely toxic and known to cause a number of respiratory and lung disorders including pleural mesothelioma. Asbestos is banned in more than 60 countries worldwide because of its harmful effects as a human carcinogen.
Types of Asbestos
There are six different types of asbestos that have been identified and divided into two groups known as amphibole and serpentine.
Amphibole asbestos includes:
- Actinolite asbestos
- Amosite asbestos
- Anthophyllite asbestos
- Tremolite asbestos
Serpentine asbestos includes:
- Chrysotile asbestos: The most commonly used type of asbestos accounting for 95% of asbestos used in building materials within the United States.
Because asbestos was so widely used in building materials as recently as 1986, asbestos abatement, or removal, has become a multi-billion dollar industry.
Th U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulate how asbestos abatement is conducted. Proper abatement is necessary, because when disturbed, asbestos-containing materials and asbestos insulation can release fibers into the air that can be inhaled. It is important to have a licensed and trained asbestos abatement professional assess if asbestos removal is safe.
Cancer Caused by Asbestos and Other Asbestos Diseases
When asbestos is inhaled into the lungs or accidentally ingested, it can have long-term devastating effects on your health.
The most common respiratory and lung diseases related to asbestos exposure are:
- Mesothelioma: A rare but highly aggressive cancer that occurs in the lining of internal organs known as the mesothelium.
- Lung cancer
- Asbestosis: A non-cancerous scarring of the tissue of the lungs due to asbestos exposure. People diagnosed with asbestosis have a higher chance of developing asbestos-related cancers.
Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
Microscopic asbestos fibers can remain lodged in the lungs for many years and unlike other poisons, symptoms of exposure can take a long time to appear. Often times when symptoms do appear, people do not seek immediate medical attention. Asbestos related cancers and diseases may take up to 40 years to develop, which can result in late detection. Many people with asbestos poisoning have worked at jobs where they have had long-term exposure to asbestos and asbestos insulation such as in the construction and manufacturing industries.
Symptoms of asbestos exposure include:
- Coughing up blood
- Difficult breathing
- High white cell count
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Pain in the chest
- Pain in the lungs
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
Asbestos Cancer Treatments at Penn Medicine
At Penn Medicine, treatment for mesothelioma and asbestos diseases may include one or more of the following treatments, or a combination of the following treatments: