Is asbestos cancerous? Should I see a doctor if I have been exposed to asbestos?

How do I know if I have been exposed to asbestos?

If you have worked for any length of time in a shipyard building or repairing ships, in a factory manufacturing asbestos materials, or as an insulation installer, a construction worker, or in automotive brake lining repair, you may have been exposed to asbestos on the job. The National Cancer Institute and other governmental agencies are informing workers and their families that job-related exposures to asbestos can result in certain diseases, particularly asbestosis and lung cancer.

What are the symptoms of the various asbestos caused diseases?

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease whose signs and symptoms result from permanent changes in lung tissue. The earliest and most prominent sign is shortness of breath after exertion.

Lung cancer has a cough or change in cough habit as its most common symptom. Chest pain is the second most common. Blood streaked sputum, coughed up from the lungs, is the first symptom in a small number of cases.

What is mesothelioma? 

Mesothelioma is a relatively rare cancer that affects the membrane lining the chest cavity (the pleura) or the membrane lining the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum). The most common first symptoms are shortness of breath, pain in the wall of the chest which is aggravated by deep breathing, or abdominal pain which may vary from vague discomfort to severe spasms. Asbestos exposure is a risk factor and workers in asbestos mines, asbestos mills, and factories,as well as installers of asbestos insulation, should be aware of the connection between mesothelioma and asbestos. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of lung cancer. Asbestos and cigarette smoking together increase lung cancer risk five-fold over the already high risk due to smoking alone.

Asbestos Exposure Lung Cancer Survivor


How can I find out if I have medical problems resulting from asbestos exposure? 

If you have been exposed to asbestos on the job you should tell your doctor so he can watch for signs or symptoms of asbestos related diseases. Tests for asbestosis include a physical exam with x-rays and lung-function tests. Tests for cancer, if it is suspected by your doctor, are more extensive and depend on your specific symptoms.

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