As of this writing, some forms of asbestos diseases, particularly mesothelioma, have no known cure. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do once you have been diagnosed with this form of cancer. In fact, there is a growing range of asbestos treatment options available.
What Are Asbestos Diseases?Asbestos is a mineral that was prized in industry, most notably for its heat-resistant properties. Although it is a type of rock that is mined from the ground, asbestos takes the form of fibers. When used in industrial processes or released during home remodeling, for example, tiny fragments of asbestos fibers may float through the air. If you inhale asbestos unknowingly, the sharp ends of the mineral fibers can become lodged in your lungs, creating irritation and inflammation.
Mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer are two of the more serious diseases that result from asbestos exposure. It can take many years, often decades, for the irritation caused by asbestos fibers to develop into cancer or other asbestos-related lung diseases.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium or the lining around an organ. Pleural mesothelioma affects the lining around the lungs and inside the chest, and it is only caused by asbestos exposure.
Lung cancer directly affects the tissues of the lungs. Asbestos exposure is one of the environmental factors that can lead to lung cancer especially in cigarette smokers. Asbestos treatment for these and other diseases comes in many forms, from the traditional to the latest innovations.
Asbestos Treatment Through Surgery
If you have pleural mesothelioma affecting only one lung, surgery to remove that lung plus the surrounding lining (the pleura) and adjoining tissue, or to remove the tumor mass alone, may be an option. This asbestos treatment is more likely to be a good option if your cancer is detected at an early stage. Removing the entire tumor offers the hope of extending life expectancy.
Similar factors determine whether surgery is the best option if you have lung cancer due to asbestos exposure. Depending on the type of cancer and the stage at which it is diagnosed, surgery to remove just the tumor, a section of lung, or an entire lung may be an appropriate asbestos treatment.
Non-Surgical Asbestos Treatment
There are a number of reasons why your doctor might not recommend surgery. If your health is poor because of other conditions, the strain of surgery may cause more harm to your health than good. If your diagnosis comes at a later stage, other forms of asbestos treatment may be more effective at halting the progress of your disease.
Certain types of lung cancer such as small cell lung cancer may be better treated through radiation and/or chemotherapy rather than surgery. These treatments can also be helpful for pleural mesothelioma.
Radiation therapy uses strong bursts of radiation to kill cancer cells. Doctors are able to focus the radiation on the precise area of the cancerous cells, minimizing damage to healthy tissue. A course of radiation therapy can shrink a tumor to reduce pain and make it easier for you to breathe.
Another asbestos treatment is chemotherapy. Like radiation therapy, chemotherapy can reduce the size of a tumor and relieve discomfort by targeting and killing cancer cells.
The word chemotherapy may be frightening to hear from your doctor’s mouth. The side effects of this asbestos treatment are well known, and may range from fatigue to nausea to hair loss. However, not all chemotherapy drugs have the same side effects, and these drugs may have different effects on different people. In addition, more accurately targeted doses and drug combinations may help reduce side effects while maximizing the efficacy of the drugs. Don’t rule out chemotherapy as an effective asbestos treatment.
Chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery may be appropriate individually or in combination. Your medical team will work with you to determine the best combination of asbestos treatments to lighten your symptoms and extend your life.
The Next Generation of Asbestos Treatment
Recent developments in cancer treatment are opening up new options for asbestos treatment. One of the most promising is immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy starts with a biopsy of your tumor. Your doctor then studies it to create your genetic profile. The characteristics of your specific tumor are used to determine if one of a range of new drugs can turn on your body’s immune defenses to attack your tumor.
Some of the drugs that may be found to be effective on mesothelioma or lung cancer include Keytruda, Opdivo, Avastin, and Cyramza. These are just a few of the options currently available and new immunotherapy drugs are gaining FDA approval every year. Particularly if your asbestos disease is not operable, you may want to ask your doctor if immunotherapy is a good option for you.
Prevention and Early Detection
If you have been exposed to asbestos but don’t have any symptoms of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease, you can do more than wait in dread of hearing bad news from your doctor. There are steps you can take now to help your lungs stay as healthy as possible and resist asbestos disease. Think of it as a proactive asbestos treatment.
If you smoke, the first and most important thing you can do is to quit smoking. Smoking is not the cause of asbestos-related disease. However, people who have been exposed to asbestos and are also smokers have a greatly increased risk of developing asbestos-related lung cancer. If you have been exposed to asbestos fibers, you can’t change that fact, but you can take action to keep your lungs as healthy as possible from today forward.
Regular check ups to screen for asbestos diseases increase your change of catching problems early, when asbestos treatment may be more effective.
Last but not least are commonsense steps to support your health, such as eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise, which can boost your immune system and improve your general wellbeing. If the worst happens and you do receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer, a healthy you will be in a better position to take advantage of all available asbestos treatments.