Its Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Don’t forget asbestos can cause lung cancer, too

With the month of November being Lung Cancer Awareness Month, efforts are underway to help draw attention to this devastating condition, in addition to spreading awareness of its associated symptoms.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

This month, people with symptoms including persistent cough, breathlessness, and/or unexplained weight loss, are being urged to make an appointment with their doctor.

Among both men and women, lung cancer accounts for more deaths than any other form of cancer. This underlines the importance of doing everything possible to detect the disease early, which can help improve the effectiveness of treatment.

The often-overlooked connection between asbestos and lung cancer

Although cases of lung cancer are often presumed to relate to a patient having a history of smoking – and this is indeed the cause of most lung cancers – it is important to acknowledge that past contact with asbestos can be another cause of the disease.

Those who have inhaled asbestos at some point during their lives, in addition to having smoked, can be at particular risk of developing lung cancer.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate substance that was once heavily used across a range of industries in the UK, such as construction, shipbuilding, and the railways, for purposes such as insulation and fire prevention.

What makes asbestos so dangerous to the lungs?

The use of asbestos was finally banned in the UK in 1999. However, with it potentially taking decades for an incident of asbestos exposure to lead to the development of disease, there are still cases of asbestos-related conditions becoming apparent today that were likely caused by the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos dating as far back as the mid-20th century.

Although asbestos is estimated to remain present in hundreds of thousands of buildings up and down the UK, the material is not believed to pose a risk to health if it is in good condition and undisturbed.

In the event that asbestos is indeed disturbed or damaged, though, there is the risk that it could be inhaled by someone who comes into contact with the fibres. This could lead to serious damage being caused to the lungs.

Don’t confuse asbestos-related lung cancer with mesothelioma

You may be wondering if asbestos-related lung cancer is just another term for mesothelioma, which is another disease that is strongly associated with asbestos exposure.

It is understandable that confusion can arise here, but the two are different conditions. Whereas mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the body’s organs – and does indeed normally affect the lining of the lungs – asbestos-related lung cancer relates to the lung tissue cells.

In the case of the latter disease, lung tissue cells end up growing abnormally, with tumours forming.

However, with the symptoms of mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer being so similar, if you do experience symptoms like those stated above and below, it is crucial regardless to reach out to your GP as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer?

If you or a loved one experiences symptoms like those listed below, you are strongly urged to get in touch with a medical professional.

  • A persistent cough
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Wheeziness
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood or bloody mucus
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling around the face and neck

It should also be noted, however, that symptoms like the above might only emerge at a relatively advanced stage of the disease. So, if you have a history of having come into contact with asbestos, you might want to arrange frequent health screenings as a further precaution.

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