Diseases caused by asbestos exposure

Pleural plaque

Pleural plaque is not cancer, and it does not cause cancer. It takes about 7 years to develop after you've been exposed to asbestos. Pleural plague is fairly common and it generally does not cause symptoms, usually it doesn't require treatment. The effects of pleural plague may cause a dull pain or, in rare cases, it may make you short of breath.

A plaque is a thickened patch, also known as fibrosis, on the pleura. The pleura are the two membrane layers which line the chest wall and to cover the lungs.

While pleural plaque shows that you may have been exposed to asbestos, pleural thickening can also be caused by an infection in the lung.

If you have pleural plaque, it is important that you quit smoking. You need to visit your doctor for regular check-ups and you should have a chest x-ray every 3 to 5 years. Your doctor may also need you to have a lung function test.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is not cancer but it is a serious disease. It takes 10 years or more to develpo after you've been exposed to asbestos. Asbestosis causes scarring of the lung tissue which may lead to disability or it can even cause death.

When asbestos fibers remain deep in the lungs, scar tissue will form around them, and over time this scar tissue may grow. A chest x-ray will show the scar tissue. This scar tissue prevents oxygen from moving into the bloodstream, so the person with asbestosis feels out of breath. The doctor will also hear crackles in your chest, it sounds similar to the sound made by rubbing hair between your fingers. These are signs of scar tissue in the lungs.

Asbestosis progresses slowly over time. Some treatments can help to improve the quality of life. Extra oxygen can help some people, you should discuss this option with your doctor.

Asbestosis usually develops in asbestos workers who have had a lot of exposure, so new cases in The United States are becoming more uncommon.

People with asbestosis may also develop lung cancer.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer may not develop until 10 to 30 years or more after a person has been exposed. Lung cancer is much more likely to develop in smokers and people who have asbestosis.

If you've worked in or you've been in an environment that has exposed you to asbestos and you're smoker, your risk of developing lung cancer is very high, maybe as much as 90 times that of people who do not smoke and people who have not been exposed to asbestos. If you have been exposed to asbestos, you may reduce your risk of deveoping cancer if you quit smoking. The risk of getting cancer continues to decline the longer you don't smoke.

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