Asbestosis is a form of pulmonary fibrosis, a situation where the lung tissues erode over time. It has similar symptoms of mesothelioma and other related cancers. Most of the asbestosis cases are linked to materials in construction sites, ships, and industrial facilities. For the condition to develop, there is a latency period that can last for several decades after its occurrence. Diagnosing asbestosis requires a thorough examination of the patient’s medical and occupational history along with medical testing. Asbestos abatement efforts are in effect throughout the world, but the demolition of buildings with asbestos materials can also increase the risk of contracting the disease. According to the WTO estimates, there are roughly 125 million people exposed to asbestos in the world. It signals a high risk of developing mesothelioma.
Asbestos fibers travel far down the esophagus after being inhaled before entrenching themselves. This behavior makes it difficult to track the fibers after making their way through the track. Potential symptoms include irritability in the lungs and the throat. Skin exposures can result in warts being formed on the body. Asbestos cancers typically create a life-threatening scenario. These symptoms usually take around 15-40 years to emerge. Signs of the asbestosis may include:
Crackling sound while breathing, shortness of breath, blood in sputum, high blood pressure, sudden appetite loss, clubbed hands, facial swelling, and difficulty swallowing. As soon as these symptoms begin to surface, physicians will start examining the air passages for scarring. Typically air sacs form around the lings which makes it impossible to breathe fresh air. The stiffening of the lungs results in the many of the immediate symptoms mentioned above. It occurs in chronic breathing problems which ultimately lead to massive weight reduction.
Pulmonary hypertension: the scar tissue might restrict the activity in the arteries, making it tougher to pump blood on a consistent basis. This situation is known as Pulmonary hypertension as is somewhat different from, high blood pressures. It forces the heart to work overtime, leading to congestive heart failure and other related problems. The clubbed fingers and toes are due to the insufficiency of oxygen in the blood. Fingernails may become deformed, due to the oxygen problem.
Managing its symptoms
Patients can take several steps to improve their lifestyle and minimize the symptoms. This involves some of the following points:
- Eating a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated
- Regular exercise. However, overexertion can further compound the symptoms; hence it is essential to maintain a balance.
- Getting proper sleep on a regular basis, and taking short naps during the day
- Preventing infections by washing hands, and getting pneumonia vaccines
- Avoiding air pollution and tobacco
Asbestosis Treatment Options
As mentioned before the condition is irreversible. All treatment options are palliative apart from the possible option of lung transplantation. The disease is progressive, therefore, the treatment needed increases with one’s age. Oxygen tanks may be necessary to supplement for the reduction in the lung capacity. The tank delivers oxygen through prongs that fit into the patient’s nose. The medications are used to relieve chest pains and lung secretions. Corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory drugs) and immunosuppressant’s are ineffective in dealing with the condition.
Pulmonary rehabilitation can prove to a useful measure for patients in developing lifestyle changes to cope with breathing difficulties. The rehabilitation program involves therapists working together for their physical and psychological needs
Doctors use X rays and CT scans to diagnose the condition. In some situations, doctors may go with a biopsy to ascertain whether a lung tumor and mesothelioma exist. This is often when there is a lesion in the scans. If the doctors are unable to determine the cancerous nature of the lesions, then a biopsy may be needed.
Tissue samples are collected through a variety of ways including need aspirations, thoracentesis, and mediastinoscopy. Needle aspiration involves the insertion of a hollow needle in the chest to remove a small area of the tissue. Thoracentesis consists of the insertion of a hollow needle through the space between the chest and the lungs to collect a sample of the fluid. Mediastinoscopy involves the collection of samples along the windpipe through the neck.
Options for Pleural Mesothelioma
Several treatment options are available for malignant pleural mesothelioma, including radiation, gene therapies, targeted therapies, and chemotherapy. The most extreme of these options is naturally, a lung transplant when other measures have failed in providing the correct results. Pleural malignant mesothelioma occurs fur typically to regular exposure to asbestos fibers.
Lung transplants are one of the options that can be explored when the disease is accompanied by severe lung diseases such as lung cancer, and emphysema. This is typically considered as a last resort treatment, and you need to be put on the waiting list that involves extensive screening to determine the chances of success. Other therapies usually involve acupuncture, massage, and homeopathy. There are several benefits of lung transplants for people including:
It is clear that with a new lung, people with the condition can essentially start over, and work with the fresh material. Breathing can become less complicated, and having functional organs unmarked by any of the cancerous cells is everything that a patient would desire. Breathing through damaged lungs and processing air is a painful experience, and this can prove to be an excellent boost for patients in fighting on against the disease.
Quality of life
According to researches, those who have lung transplants are likely to report a higher quality of life and have a greater chance of survival.
However, there are certain disadvantages of the treatment which include:
The time for recovery is typically very long and can be spread over several months after the surgery is performed. The recovery process is a delicate period where extreme care needs to be taken in abiding by the restriction, placed by the surgeon. The downtime can be frustrating as patients are typically confined to their beds and need to follow all the instructions of their doctors.
Organ incompatibility in the long-term
Even after the transplant is successful, it is possible that the body rejects the new organ. Several drugs are given to patients to control the immune system from rejecting the organ. However, a lower immune system can prove to be detrimental, as the slightest of susceptibility can lead to complications with the new organ.
The long road back
A successful transplant is dependent upon several factors and getting it done can be a significant problem while dealing with cancer that spreads swiftly throughout the body. The quality of the donated organ is crucial for the overall success of the operation, and it can take a considerable amount of time to gain access to it. Conditions such as Mesothelioma are deadly and in this situation, time is money.
The likelihood of Lung transplantation in the treatment of Mesothelioma
Lung transplantation is used to treat the condition under rare circumstances, where the doctors may deem a patient’s lungs too damaged for functionality. A transplant may restore the functionality of a patients lungs, and the quality of life. It is, however, very uncommon but can prove to be a lifesaving exercise when there are no other viable options available.
While the process can be used for diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer, it can also have a palliative use for the treatment of asbestosis. Asbestosis can be accompanied with conditions involving pleural effusion. The situation consists of the development of an excess fluid that can make it difficult to breathe. This can relieve chest pains allowing them to work more efficiently. It is usually an outpatient treatment and the least aggressive way of thinning the buildup of fluid.
There two main types of Mesothelioma, both of which have different symptoms:
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms include:
A dry cough
Coughing up blood
Blood clotting issues
Shortness of breath
The exact stage of the cancer is difficult to narrow out and hence it is always advisable to diagnose the condition as early as possible. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the better it is for the patients.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms:
Loss of appetite
Doctors provide chemotherapy drugs to control the growth of cancer. It is optional for the patients to take these medicines before, during, or after the operation. In some instances, chemotherapy may be the only option. Some of these drugs may include gemcitabine, carboplatin, cisplatin, and others. Health experts are also testing the effectiveness of HIPEC. HIPEC starts with an operation to remove all the related tumors from the peritoneum. Then a saltwater and drug combination is used in a machine that pumps this concoction in the patient’s abdomen. This helps in destroying cancer cells. It is estimated that roughly 50% of the patients survive for at least five years after the treatment.
Initial Mesothelioma Symptoms May Contribute to Misdiagnosis
Nonspecialists often mistake pleural mesothelioma for less severe conditions. These include pneumonia, bronchial infection, and COPD. People with peritoneal mesothelioma may initially be diagnosed with ovarian cancer or irritable bowel syndrome. Pericardial mesothelioma is so rare that doctors can easily confuse it with heart failure, coronary heart disease, and other common heart illnesses.
A mesothelioma misdiagnosis can delay proper treatment. Anyone with a history of asbestos exposure should inform their primary care physician of their exposure. Also, ask about annual cancer screenings. If you develop any abdominal or pulmonary issues in your lifetime, make sure to mention your asbestos exposure history to the medical professionals who provide your care.