What are the health hazards of exposure to asbestos?

Exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of several serious diseases like mesotheloma cancers:

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Government and Asbestos Protection

Mesothelioma Medical services related to asbestos exposure are available through the Government for certain groups of eligible individuals. In general, individuals must pay for their own medical services unless they are covered by private or Government health insurance. Some people with symptoms of mesotheleoma asbestos-related illness may be eligible for Medicare coverage. Information about benefits is available from the Medicare office serving each state. For the telephone number of the nearest office, call toll-free 1–800–633–4227 (1–800–MEDICARE) or visit http://www.medicare.gov  on the Internet.

People with asbestos-related mesotheloma diseases also may qualify for financial help, including medical payments, under state workers’ compensation laws. Because eligibility requirements vary from state to state, workers should contact the workers’ compensation program in their state. Contact information for the workers’ compensation program in each state may be found in the blue pages of a local telephone directory or at http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/owcp/wc.htmon the Internet.

If exposure occurred during employment with a Federal agency (military or civilian), medical expenses and other compensation may be covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Program. Workers who are or were employed in a shipyard by a private employer may be covered under the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Information about eligibility and how to file a claim is available from:

Organization:Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs
Employment Standards Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
Address:Room S–3229
200 Constitution Avenue, NW.
Washington, DC 20210 
Telephone:202–693–0040 
E-mail:OWCP-Mail@dol-esa.gov 
Internet Web site:http://www.dol.gov/esa/owcp_org.htm 

Workers also may wish to contact their international union for information on other sources of medical help and insurance matters.

Eligible veterans and their dependents may receive health care at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. Mesathelioma treatment for service-connected and nonservice-connected conditions is provided. If the VA cannot provide the necessary medical care, they will arrange for enrolled veterans to receive care in their community. Information about eligibility and benefits is available from the VA Health Benefits Service Center at 1–877–222–8387 (1–877–222–VETS) or on the VA Web site at http://www.va.gov/health_benefits/ on the Internet.

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Sources of National Cancer Institute Information

What is Asbestos?

“Asbestos” is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally as bundles of fibers which can be separated into thin threads. These fibers are not affected by heat or chemicals and do not conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos has been widely used in many industries. Four types of asbestos have been used commercially:

  • Chrysotile, or white asbestos;
  • Crocidolite, or blue asbestos;
  • Amosite, which usually has brown fibers; and
  • Anthophyllite, which usually has gray fibers.

Chrysotile asbestos, with its curly fibers, is in the serpentine family of minerals. The other types of asbestos, which all have rod-like fibers, are known as amphiboles.

Asbestos fiber masses tend to break easily into a dust composed of tiny particles that can float in the air and stick to clothes. The fibers may be easily inhaled or swallowed and can cause serious health problems.

Asbestosis is a serious, chronic, non-cancerous respiratory disease. Like all cancers it has remedies to some extent. Inhaled asbestos fibers aggravate lung tissues, which causes them to scar. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. In its advanced stages, the asbestos disease may cause cardiac failure.

There is no effective treatment for asbestosis; the disease is usually disabling or fatal. The risk of asbestosis is minimal for those who do not work with asbestos; the disease is rarely caused by neighborhood or family exposure. Those who renovate or demolish buildings that contain asbestos may be at significant risk, depending on the nature of the exposure and precautions taken.

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Who needs to be examined?

Individuals who have been exposed (or suspect they have been exposed) to asbestos fibers on the job or at home via a family contact should inform their physician of their exposure history and any symptoms. Asbestos fibers can be measured in urine, feces, mucus, or material rinsed out of the lungs. A thorough physical examination, including a chest x-ray and lung function tests, may be recommended. It is important to note that chest x-rays cannot detect asbestos fibers in the lungs, but they can help identify any lung changes resulting from asbestos exposure. Interpretation of the chest x-ray may require the help of a specialist who is experienced in reading x-rays for asbestos-related diseases. Other tests also may be necessary.

The most common types of friable asbestos that inspectors are concerned with are sheet insulation used as a fire barrier around heating plants in older buildings, pipe insulation on older hydronic boilers, and insulation on older ductwork.

Sprayed-on ceiling asbestos — This was common in the 1960s and earlier. This material can be very hazardous. The popcorn ceilings on the west coast, mostly in California, are typically made from an asbestos-containing material. The popcorn ceilings in the Midwest and on the East coast typically do not contain asbestos.

Removal of asbestos — Asbestos should be removed and disposed of by a qualified contractor. Most states maintain lists of qualified contractors. Contact the EPA or the state department of environmental protection for an updated list of qualified testing and or mitigation contractors. It is not recommended that homeowners remove the asbestos themselves due to the associated health risk. Subsequent to any remediation, an air test should be performed to ensure that no fibers remain.

As noted earlier, the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases may not become apparent for many decades after exposure. If any of the following symptoms develop, a physical examination should be scheduled without delay:

  • Shortness of breath;
  • A cough or a change in cough pattern;
  • Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up from the lungs;
  • Pain in the chest or abdomen;
  • Difficulty in swallowing or prolonged hoarseness; and/or
  • Significant weight loss.

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Sources of National Cancer Institute Information

Mesothelioma Stage Information

Patients with stage I disease have a significantly better prognosis than those with more advanced stages. However, because of the relative rarity of this disease, exact survival information based upon stage is limited.[1] A proposed staging system based upon thoracic surgery principles and clinical data is shown below.[2] It is a modification of the older system proposed by Butchart et al.[3] Other staging systems that have been employed, including a proposed new international TNM staging system, are summarized by the International Mesothelioma Interest Group.[4]

  • Stage I: Disease confined within the capsule of the parietal pleura: ipsilateral pleura, lung, pericardium, and diaphragm.
  • Stage II: All of stage I with positive intrathoracic (N1 or N2) lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: Local extension of disease into the following: chest wall or mediastinum; heart or through the diaphragm, peritoneum; with or without extrathoracic or contralateral (N3) lymph node involvement.
  • Stage IV: Distant metastatic disease.

Localized malignant mesothelioma

See description of stage I above.

Advanced malignant mesothelioma

See descriptions of stages II, III, and IV above.

For the purposes of the discussion of treatment in this summary, the disease is categorized as either localized or advanced.

References

  1. Chahinian AP, Pass HI: Malignant mesothelioma. In: Holland JC, Frei E, eds.: Cancer Medicine e.5. 5th ed. Hamilton, Ontario: B.C. Decker Inc, 2000, pp 1293-1312.  

  2. Sugarbaker DJ, Strauss GM, Lynch TJ, et al.: Node status has prognostic significance in the multimodality therapy of diffuse, malignant mesothelioma. J Clin Oncol 11 (6): 1172-8, 1993.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  3. Butchart EG, Ashcroft T, Barnsley WC, et al.: Pleuropneumonectomy in the management of diffuse malignant mesothelioma of the pleura. Experience with 29 patients. Thorax 31 (1): 15-24, 1976.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Rusch VW: A proposed new international TNM staging system for malignant pleural mesothelioma. From the International Mesothelioma Interest Group. Chest 108 (4): 1122-8, 1995.  [PUBMED Abstract]

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Sources of National Cancer Institute Information

Recurrent Malignant Mesothelioma

Treatment of recurrent mesothelioma usually utilizes procedures and/or agents not previously employed in the initial treatment attempt. No standard treatment approaches have been proven to improve survival or control symptoms for a prolonged period of time. These patients should be considered candidates for phase I and II clinical trials evaluating new biologicals, chemotherapeutic agents, or physical approaches.[15] Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Cancer.gov Web site.

References

  1. Rusch V, Saltz L, Venkatraman E, et al.: A phase II trial of pleurectomy/decortication followed by intrapleural and systemic chemotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma. J Clin Oncol 12 (6): 1156-63, 1994.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  2. Markman M, Kelsen D: Efficacy of cisplatin-based intraperitoneal chemotherapy as treatment of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 118 (7): 547-50, 1992.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  3. Weissmann LB, Antman KH: Incidence, presentation and promising new treatments for malignant mesothelioma. Oncology (Huntingt) 3 (1): 67-72; discussion 73-4, 77, 1989.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Boutin C, Viallat JR, Van Zandwijk N, et al.: Activity of intrapleural recombinant gamma-interferon in malignant mesothelioma. Cancer 67 (8): 2033-7, 1991.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  5. Ong ST, Vogelzang NJ: Chemotherapy in malignant pleural mesothelioma. A review. J Clin Oncol 14 (3): 1007-17, 1996.  [PUBMED Abstract]

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Sources of National Cancer Institute Information

Localized Malignant Mesothelioma (Stage I)

Standard treatment options:[1]

  1. Solitary mesotheliomas: Surgical resection en bloc including contiguous structures to ensure wide disease-free margins. Sessile polypoid lesions should be treated with surgical resection to ensure maximal potential for cure.[2]
  2. Intracavitary mesothelioma:
    1. Palliative surgery (pleurectomy and decortication) with or without postoperative radiation therapy.
    2. Extrapleural pneumonectomy.
    3. Palliative radiation therapy.

Treatment options under clinical evaluation:

  1. Intracavitary chemotherapy following resection.[3,4]
  2. Multimodality therapy.[46]
  3. Other clinical trials.

Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Cancer.gov Web site.

References

  1. Antman KH, Li FP, Osteen R, et al.: Mesothelioma. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology Updates 3(1): 1-16, 1989.  

  2. Martini N, McCormack PM, Bains MS, et al.: Pleural mesothelioma. Ann Thorac Surg 43 (1): 113-20, 1987.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  3. Markman M, Kelsen D: Efficacy of cisplatin-based intraperitoneal chemotherapy as treatment of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 118 (7): 547-50, 1992.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Rusch V, Saltz L, Venkatraman E, et al.: A phase II trial of pleurectomy/decortication followed by intrapleural and systemic chemotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma. J Clin Oncol 12 (6): 1156-63, 1994.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  5. Sugarbaker DJ, Mentzer SJ, DeCamp M, et al.: Extrapleural pneumonectomy in the setting of a multimodality approach to malignant mesothelioma. Chest 103 (4 Suppl): 377S-381S, 1993.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  6. Vogelzang NJ: Malignant mesothelioma: diagnostic and management strategies for 1992. Semin Oncol 19 (4 Suppl 11): 64-71, 1992.  [PUBMED Abstract]

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Sources of National Cancer Institute Information

Mesothelioma Lawyer & Attorney Rights

Victims of asbestos injuries are entitled to compensation from the manufacturers of asbestos. The amount of compensation varies in each individual case, but it is often a significant amount of money-as much as six or seven figures. This compensation is not a windfall. If you are suffering from an asbestos disease, you are most likely doing so through no fault of your own. Asbestos companies covered up the fact that asbestos is hazardous, and made billions of dollars peddling deadly products. You, the unsuspecting user, are now paying the ultimate price.Anyone who was injured as a result of their exposure to asbestos has a potential legal claim against the manufacturers of asbestos products. This can be significant for several reasons. The medical costs associated with treating a disease such as mesothelioma can be staggering. Moreover, legal compensation is a means by which many victims of mesothelioma provide enough money to support a spouse or loved one, or to leave behind a legacy.People are often surprised to find out that the largest amounts of compensation typically available can be recovered from the asbestos industry. There are mesothelioma law firms who handle such cases on a contingency fee basis which does not require out of pocket cost.Patients can also file a disability claim with social security. It’s advisable to consult with a mesothelioma attorney that specializes in such claims.Many people can also file a disability claim if they have disability insurance either privately, through their employer, or as part of a life insurance policy.If asbestos exposure occurred on the job, in addition to claims against the asbestos industry, a worker’s compensation claim or other types of legal action may be filed against an employer. Again, it is advisable to consult with a mesothelioma lawyer handling worker’s compensation claims. It is prudent to consult also with an attorney handling claims against the asbestos industry to make sure the various claims do not conflict with your optimal strategy.      # # # Sources of National Cancer Institute Information  
Malignant Mesothelioma Home Page
 # # # Other Websites of InterestMesothelioma Web — The Best Resource for Mesothelioma Patients
The Mesothelioma Web (MW) is dedicated to consolidating the most up to date, concise, mesothelioma medical information, contacts and important links. Our resource coordinators are constantly on the lookout for new information and are available to help you find answers for your individual situation
MARF — Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, Inc.
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, the nationalnonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma as a life-ending disease

Mesothelioma/Asbestos Update Page
Asbestos Update is an up-to-date survey of medical and legal options for mesothelioma patients, including medical abstracts, doctor referrals and mesothelioma patient profiles. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, lining of the abdomen, or heart caused by exposure to asbestos

Mesothelioma Information — The Asbestos Cancer Resource
Mesothelioma Information at MesoInfo.com is an educational resource for those who suffer from the lung cancer mesothelioma, also known as asbestos cancer, or who know someone who does.

Mesothelioma Information Resource Group
The Mesothelioma Information and Resource Group [MIRG] is an organization created to assist patients, family, friends and loved ones in learning about mesothelioma and other asbestos-related injuries
Mesothilioma, Mesotheliema,Mesothiliema,Mesotheleoma Mesosthelioma, Masesthilioma information:

Mesothelioma General Information

Prognosis in this disease is difficult to assess consistently because there is great variability in the time before diagnosis and the rate of disease progression. Various surgical procedures may be possible in selected patients, providing long-term survival without cure. In large retrospective series of pleural mesothelioma patients, important prognostic factors were found to be stage, age, performance status, and histology.[1,2] For patients treated with aggressive surgical approaches, factors associated with improved long-term survival include epithelial histology, negative lymph nodes, and negative surgical margins.[3,4] For those patients treated with aggressive surgical approaches, nodal status is an important prognostic factor.[3] Median survival for malignant local pleural disease has been reported as 16 months and extensive disease as 5 months. In some instances the tumor grows through the diaphragm making the site of origin difficult to assess. Cautious interpretation of treatment results in this disease is imperative because of the selection differences among series. Effusions, both pleural and peritoneal, represent major symptomatic problems for at least two thirds of the patients. A history of asbestos exposure is reported in about 70% to 80% of all cases of mesothelioma.[1,5,6]

References

  1. Ruffie P, Feld R, Minkin S, et al.: Diffuse malignant mesothelioma of the pleura in Ontario and Quebec: a retrospective study of 332 patients. J Clin Oncol 7 (8): 1157-68, 1989.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  2. Tammilehto L, Maasilta P, Kostiainen S, et al.: Diagnosis and prognostic factors in malignant pleural mesothelioma: a retrospective analysis of sixty-five patients. Respiration 59 (3): 129-35, 1992.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  3. Sugarbaker DJ, Strauss GM, Lynch TJ, et al.: Node status has prognostic significance in the multimodality therapy of diffuse, malignant mesothelioma. J Clin Oncol 11 (6): 1172-8, 1993.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Sugarbaker D, Harpole D, Healey E, et al.: Multimodality treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM): results in 94 consecutive patients. [Abstract] Proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 14: A-1083, 356, 1995.  

  5. Chailleux E, Dabouis G, Pioche D, et al.: Prognostic factors in diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma. A study of 167 patients. Chest 93 (1): 159-62, 1988.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  6. Adams VI, Unni KK, Muhm JR, et al.: Diffuse malignant mesothelioma of pleura. Diagnosis and survival in 92 cases. Cancer 58 (7): 1540-51, 1986.  [PUBMED Abstract]

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Sources of National Cancer Institute Information

Cellular Classification

Histologically, these tumors are composed of fibrous or epithelial elements or both. The epithelial form occasionally causes confusion with peripheral anaplastic lung carcinomas or metastatic carcinomas. Attempts at diagnosis by cytology or needle biopsy of the pleura are often unsuccessful. It can be especially difficult to differentiate mesothelioma from adenocarcinoma on small tissue specimens. Thoracoscopy can be valuable in obtaining adequate tissue specimens for diagnostic purposes.[1] Examination of the gross tumor at surgery and use of special stains or electron microscopy can often help. The special stains reported to be most useful include periodic acid-Schiff diastase, hyaluronic acid, mucicarmine, CEA, and Leu M1.[2] Histologic appearance appears to be of prognostic value, with most clinical studies showing that epithelial mesotheliomas have a better prognosis than sarcomatous or mixed histology mesotheliomas.[24]

References

  1. Boutin C, Rey F: Thoracoscopy in pleural malignant mesothelioma: a prospective study of 188 consecutive patients. Part 1: Diagnosis. Cancer 72 (2): 389-93, 1993.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  2. Chahinian AP, Pass HI: Malignant mesothelioma. In: Holland JC, Frei E, eds.: Cancer Medicine e.5. 5th ed. Hamilton, Ontario: B.C. Decker Inc, 2000, pp 1293-1312.  

  3. Nauta RJ, Osteen RT, Antman KH, et al.: Clinical staging and the tendency of malignant pleural mesotheliomas to remain localized. Ann Thorac Surg 34 (1): 66-70, 1982.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Sugarbaker DJ, Strauss GM, Lynch TJ, et al.: Node status has prognostic significance in the multimodality therapy of diffuse, malignant mesothelioma. J Clin Oncol 11 (6): 1172-8, 1993.  [PUBMED Abstract]

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Sources of National Cancer Institute Information