Lung cancer causes more deaths in the United States than any other type of cancer. Many people affected by the disease have a history of asbestos exposure based on their work history that may have resulted in their lung cancer diagnosis many years later due to the latency period associated with asbestos-related lung cancer.
Asbestos lung cancer diagnosis can be difficult due to its apparent similarities with so many other respiratory infections and diseases. Initial symptoms are similar to less serious, more common conditions like asthma and pneumonia, while later symptoms are similar to other asbestos-related lung diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Furthermore, after an individual has been exposed to asbestos, the asbestos fibers reside in the body and take 10-40 years to develop into diseases such as lung cancer or mesothelioma, this is known as the latency period. Initial testing determines whether the disease is present and continued and regular followup testing each year is important due to this latency period related to asbestos exposure caused lung cancers.
It is important to understand the nature of asbestos exposure which was likely caused from work duties performed with asbestos containing products. Anyone who worked around asbestos or in high risk industries for asbestos exposure should seek immediate testing to determine if they have an asbestos related illness. It is a critical aspect of your legal case to have an official diagnosis of lung cancer or mesothelioma.
If you believe you have been diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer contact Mesowatch today to receive a free and confidential case evaluation.
Biopsies Used for Diagnosing Lung Disease
A biopsy is one of the most accurate methods medical professionals use to diagnose asbestos-related lung disease. There are multiple methods of performing a biopsy, but they all involve extracting and analyzing tissue and fluid samples directly from the patient’s lungs. The biopsy method doctors employ depends on the type and location of the tissue that needs analyzing.
The least invasive and one of the most common methods of obtaining lung biopsies is a type of endoscopy called a bronchoscopy. This procedure involves inserting a thin, fiber-optic scope into the patient’s nose or mouth, down the trachea and into the lungs. From here, the doctor uses small forceps attached to the device to collect the tissue and fluid samples. A small camera at the end of the scope also allows the doctor to visibly search for any abnormalities and tumor growth in the lungs. Certain factors, however, may necessitate one of these more invasive types of biopsies to accurately diagnose asbestos-related lung disease.
- Thoracoscopy: highly accurate biopsy whereby doctors make a narrow incision directly into the pleural space of the lungs to obtain samples with the assistance of a small camera
- Fine-Needle Aspiration: quick, safe biopsy involving a long, hollow needle that is directly inserted into the lungs and is capable of retrieving up to 10,000 samples at once
- Thoracentesis: procedure using a hollow needle to retrieve both fluid and air from the space in between the lungs and pleura
- Thoracotomy: invasive surgery allowing access to the entire thoracic cavity, during which the doctor removes a wedge-shaped piece of the lung for testing
Incisional (Core) Biopsy: common procedure for easy-to-reach tumors involving only a small portion of the suspicious tissue being removed
- Excisional Biopsy: procedure during which the doctor removes the entirety of the affected area rather than only a portion of the tissue
Sputum Cytology Used in Lung Cancer Diagnosis
Only when lung cancer is the suspected form of lung disease do doctors perform a sputum cytology. Generally, this test in non-invasive, as the patient can cough up a sample of thick mucus from their lungs. The doctor examines this sample under a microscope in order to determine if abnormal cells are present in the patient’s phlegm.
Lung Cancer vs. Mesothelioma
Lung cancer and mesothelioma are both types of cancer affecting the lungs and chest that have similar symptoms, diagnostic techniques and treatments. Additionally, they have correlating death rates across the United States. Despite these similarities, however, they are very different diseases with different types of development within the body.
- Lung cancer develops solely in small, defined masses in the lungs. Mesothelioma, on the other hand, develops as small tumors in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart or testicles that eventually grow together to envelop the affected organs.
- After the initial exposure to the carcinogen, lung cancer generally takes between 10 and 30 years to develop and show symptoms, while mesothelioma usually takes 20-50 years to develop and present symptoms.
- Lung cancer can be caused by tobacco use and similar environmental factors, while mesothelioma is almost solely caused by exposure to asbestos.
- Tobacco use can create further risk of developing lung cancer from asbestos exposure and you should not think you do not have a case because of tobacco use.
Helsinki Criteria for Asbestos Lung Cancer Diagnosis
According to the Helsinki Criteria, in order to determine whether lung cancer is caused by asbestos, it must fit at least two of the Helsinki Criteria.
- The lung cancer develops at least 10 years after the patient was initially exposed to asbestos.The patient is required to meet this first criterion because it addresses the latency period of asbestos-related lung cancer. The latency period is 10 years, so if the patient shows symptoms within 10 years of being exposed to asbestos, asbestos cannot be the cause of the cancer. The patient only needs to meet at least one more of the remaining Helsinki Criteria in order to be diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer.
- Asbestosis diagnosis
- Above average number of asbestos fibers in the lung tissues
- Above average exposure to asbestos
While other versions of criteria similar to the Helsinki Criteria exist, experts worldwide generally accept the Helsinki Criteria to be accurate. When combined with test results from fluid and tissue biopsies and sputum cytologies, experts can make an accurate asbestos-related lung cancer diagnosis and distinguish it from other types of lung cancer and similar respiratory diseases.
If you believe you have been diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer or mesothelioma contact Mesowatch today to receive a free and confidential case evaluation. You will be immediately connected with the nation’s most experienced asbestos exposure legal team.