Asbestos Lung Cancer

Cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibres is known as Asbestos lung cancer or white lung disease. Asbestos exposure also causes pleural mesothelioma, rare cancer that develops in the lungs. Tobacco smoking accounts for about 80% of lung cancer deaths in India. Only a few cases of lung cancer are linked to asbestos. However, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers and non-smokers.


  • Symptoms may include coughing up blood, chest pain, and shortness of breath
  • May develop 10 to 20 years after asbestos exposure
  • Diagnosis and treatment will be made based on the type and stage of cancer

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Any lung cancer exerts the same symptoms regardless of the:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness or wheezing
  • Chronic respiratory infections
  • Fatigue and loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the face or neck
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  • Coughing up blood

These symptoms typically only arise at a late stage of development when the cancer is tougher to treat. Nevertheless, people with a history of asbestos exposure should seek regular medical screening for asbestos-related health issues.

Diagnosis of Asbestos Lung Cancer

The diagnostic process of asbestos or any lung cancer begins with imaging scans such as X-rays and CT scans.

A pathologist must perform examinations on a tissue biopsy sample to confirm a cancer diagnosis. A biopsy may be extracted with the help of a long needle which is passed down the throat and into the lungs’ airways.

Cancer Treatment

Main treatment options for asbestos-related lung cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.

Aggressive treatments aim to remove cancer cells to prevent the spread of cells and tumours. In addition, palliative therapies help ease pain and other symptoms to improve quality of life.

  • Surgery: Tumor-removing surgery may be a viable option if the cancer is diagnosed in an early stage when the spread is limited. Doctors may remove the tumour and a small portion of the lung, one of the lung lobes or the entire lung (pneumonectomy).
  • Chemotherapy is the most common treatment when lung cancer spreads from the initial tumour. It aims to shrink tumours and kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation Therapy: High-energy, pinpointed radiation beam is used to kill cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: Several immunotherapies such as pembrolizumab and nivolumab have been approved to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Immunotherapies amplify immune responses to recognize and kill cancer cells.

Linking Asbestos Lung Cancer?

There are set criteria that help doctors determine if asbestos is the cause of Lung cancer. These criteria include:

  • Latency Period: Lung cancer usually develops at least ten years after the initial asbestos exposure.
  • Evidence of Asbestos Exposure: This includes a diagnosis of asbestosis, higher than normal asbestos fibres in the lung tissue and exposure levels of asbestos equal to or greater than 25 fibres per millilitre of air over a year.

Are you looking to get screened for asbestos-related cancer? If you are from Mumbai, you can contact us and book an appointment. Cancer is something deadly if ignored, and we also suggest getting yourself screened without symptoms every 4-5 years. Dr. Amit Gandhi and the team are always at your service.

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