Asbestos-causing
lung cancer

Asbestos cancers are caused by breathing or swallowing large amounts of asbestos fibres and dust. In addition to mesothelioma and lung cancer, significant asbestos exposure can cause a number of other serious and potentially fatal diseases. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related cancer, or if you are concerned about your asbestos exposure, Maurice Blackburn’s dedicated asbestos lawyers can help.

Types of asbestos cancer

When people talk about asbestos cancer they are usually referring to mesothelioma which is a cancer that affects the thin, protective membrane surrounding the lungs, heart and abdominal cavity.  There are, however, a number of other cancers that are directly related to or associated with asbestos exposure.  

While asbestos lung cancer is a rare type of lung cancer it has been proven that it can be directly caused by asbestos exposure.  In addition to mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestos has been associated with a number of other cancers, however research is ongoing to determine the extent to which asbestos can cause other types of cancer.

Causes of asbestos cancer

Asbestos cancers are caused by breathing or swallowing toxic asbestos in the form of either dust or fibres.  The toxic fibres enter the body and lodge in healthy cells, eventually causing DNA changes and damage that lead to cancer. Asbestos exposure is the principal cause of mesothelioma, and is an acknowledged risk factor and possible cause of lung cancer.  While smoking will likely exacerbate the symptoms of any asbestos and mesothelioma cancer and diseases, it does not increase the risk of developing mesothelioma if you've been exposed to asbestos. 

 

Asbestos related lung cancer

There are many forms of lung cancer, and many of these can be related to working with asbestos. Asbestos-related lung cancer includes:

  • adenocarcinoma
  • non-small cell lung cancer
  • squamous cell lung cancer, and
  • small cell lung cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer and recall working with asbestos during your working life, we recommend you contact us to investigate whether you have a potential common law or statutory claim.

We have solicitors in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and throughout Australia. We also represent New Zealand clients who were exposed to Asbestos in Australia.  Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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Every moment is precious for an asbestos disease sufferer and their loved ones. We can help streamline your legal access to compensation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make a claim if I have smoked cigarettes?

While cigarette smoking is recognised as a primary cause of lung cancer, long-term exposure to asbestos is also a cause of lung cancer. People who smoke and have also been exposed to asbestos have a very high risk of developing the disease.

Even if you have smoked it is important to know that you can still bring a legal claim for compensation in relation to your asbestos exposure. It is often the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure that causes lung cancer. This means that even if smoking is a cause of your lung cancer, you may still have an asbestos claim.

Talk to a member of our dedicated asbestos practice to help with your claim, even if you're not sure where or when you were exposed to asbestos.

What are the main types of asbestos-causing lung cancer?

There are two main types of asbestos-causing lung cancer:

  • Small cell lung cancer 
  • Non-small cell lung cancer

Small cell lung cancer

This type of cancer is strongly associated with cigarette smoking. Small cell lung cancers account for about 15 per cent of all lung cancers.

Non-small cell lung cancer

This type of cancer makes up the majority of diagnosed lung cancers. There are four types of non-small cell lung cancer:

  • squamous cell carcinoma (non-melanoma skin cancer)
  • large cell carcinoma (often occurring in the outer regions of the lungs and growing rapidly)
  • adenocarcinoma (most common form of non-small cell lung cancer, especially in women, which starts in the periphery of the lungs and can be present for a long time before it is detected)
  • bronchio-alveolar carcinoma (less common form of adenocarcinoma which arises in the small air sacs in the lungs).

Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • persistent cough or a new or changed wheeze (or all)
  • breathlessness
  • blood-streaked phlegm (mucus)
  • pains in the chest, when coughing or taking a deep breath
  • recurring pneumonia or chest infections
  • recurring bronchitis
  • excessive tiredness (fatigue), and
  • unexplained weight loss.

To diagnose lung cancer, a doctor may perform the following examinations:

  • chest x-rays – cancers as small as one centimetre can be spotted on x-rays
  • sputum cytology – a sample of sputum (phlegm) is examined under a microscope to check for abnormal cells
  • bronchoscopy – a flexible tube is inserted through the mouth or nose and down the trachea, allowing the doctor to look at the lung tissue and take a small sample of tissue and phlegm
  • fine needle aspiration – a small sample of tissue is removed using a needle inserted through the chest wall
  • mediastinoscopy – a flexible tube is inserted into a cut in the neck and down to the lymph nodes to check for cancer cells in the lymph nodes
  • video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery – instruments similar to bronchoscopes are inserted into the chest wall under general anaesthetic and tissue samples may be taken
  • CT scan – a specialised x-ray taken from many different angles, to build a three-dimensional picture of the body
  • Fluoro-Deoxy Glucose (FDG) Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan – used in diagnosis and staging of lung cancer, involving an injection of a small amount of radioactive material that sends signals to a scanner to build up a picture of the body, and
  • other tests – including bone scans, to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Note: This information is general in nature. Please consult your doctor about your health.

What are the treatment options for asbestos-causing lung cancer?

Treatment options for a confirmed diagnosis of lung cancer include:

 

  • surgery to remove the affected part of the lung (lobectomy) or an entire lung (pneumonectomy)
  • radiotherapy – the use of x-rays to target and kill cancer cells. Radiotherapy may be used against some early stage lung cancers and to stop cancer in the lymph nodes from spreading further. Prophylactic brain radiotherapy is often offered to people with small cell lung cancer to reduce the risk of their lung cancer spreading to their brain
  • chemotherapy – anti-cancer drugs are given to stop cancer cells from multiplying. This treatment is most effective for small cell carcinoma targeted therapy (biological agents) - use of small molecules, often in tablet form, that may be used after chemotherapy, and
  • clinical trials – participation in a clinical trial that investigates the safety and effectiveness of novel drugs may be offered.

Note: This information is general in nature. Please consult your doctor about your health.

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