Lung Cancer from Asbestos exposure
Medical experts are now agreed that exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer subject to certain criteria being met.
Recent changes in the benefit system mean that you no longer have to have asbestosis to be able to claim benefits for lung cancer provided that certain other criteria are met. It is not impossible but still very difficult to obtain compensation through the courts for lung cancer if you are not suffering from asbestosis.
Lung cancer can take around 20 – 40 years to develop from when the exposure to asbestos occurred. Smoking dramatically increases your chance of developing lung cancer if you have been exposed to asbestos. Statistically a cigarette smoker is 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer that a non smoker whereas a person working with asbestos is 5 times more likely to develop lung cancer than someone who has not been exposed to asbestos
However the effect is very significant in that a person who has been exposed to asbestos and also smokes is 50 times more likely to develop lung cancer than someone who does not smoke and has not had any exposure to asbestos.
Lung Cancer – Symptoms
The symptoms of lung cancer may include any of the folloing:-
- a continuing cough, or change in a long-standing cough
- a chest infection that does not get better
- increasing breathlessness
- coughing up blood-stained phlegm (sputum)
- a hoarse voice
- a dull ache, or a sharp pain, when you cough or take a deep breath
- loss of appetite and loss of weight
- difficulty swallowing
- excessive tiredness (fatigue) and lethargy.
These symptoms can also be caused by some other illness, rather than by lung cancer. If you have these symptoms, see your doctor. This is particularly important if you smoke or have been exposed to asbestos in the past.
Diagnosing Lung Cancer
Most people begin by seeing their GP when symptoms develop. Your GP will then examine you and arrange for you to have a chest x-ray, probably at your local hospital.
A chest x-ray will be taken to check for any abnormalities in your lungs. You may also be asked to give samples of phlegm (sputum) to the hospital, so that they can be examined under a microscope for cancer cells, this is known as sputum cytology.
You may also have to undergo a CT (computerised tomography) scan. This takes a series of x-rays which build up a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body. The scan is painless but takes from 10 to 30 minutes. You will be asked not to eat or drink for at least four hours before the scan.
In addition you may undergo a bronchoscopy. A specialst examines the inside of the lung airways and takes samples of the cells using a thin, flexible tube called a bronchoscope. This is carried out under local anaesthetic. Sometimes a rigid bronchoscope is used instead. If this happens, a general anaesthetic is given and you may have to stay in hospital overnight.
If you have not been diagnosed we can email you a fact sheet to discuss with your GP or treating consultant to identify whether the lung cancer could be asbestos related.
See our guide if you have recently lost a loved one.