Asbestos Lung Cancer Symptoms—What to Look For

The Environmental Protection Agency, United States Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all officially recognized asbestos as a carcinogen. It most commonly causes mesothelioma, a rare cancer, but is also linked to traditional lung cancer. Learn the symptoms—if you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos, you will know when to contact a doctor.

  • Firstly, it’s important to remember that signs of asbestos-related diseases may not appear until for 1 to 4 decades after exposure, with lung cancer generally occurring in the earlier portion—between 1 and 2 decades. So if it’s been 15 years since you worked in construction, for example, your lung cancer may still be linked to that contact.
  • Coughing, especially a cough that is persistent and/or grows worse, is a common symptom of lung cancer. Of course, coughing is a symptom of many things, so this alone should not necessarily lead someone to conclude they may have cancer.
  • If you are coughing up blood, it is a serious indication of a health problem. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be lung cancer, it’s very important to see a doctor when coughing up blood.
  • Similarly, blood in mucus is sometimes a sign of lung cancer.
  • Anemia, which is an abnormally lowered red blood cell count, may be present in patients with asbestos-related lung cancer.
  • Difficulty breathing, such as abnormal shortness of breath/dyspnea, is another indication of possible lung cancer. This tends to worsen over time.
  • Unrelenting chest pain may be cause for concern, especially in combination with these other symptoms and any possible asbestos exposure.
  • Frequent lung infections may indicate the onset of lung cancer, and are certainly cause for concern regardless.
  • Unusual tiredness/exhaustion may accompany other symptoms when lung cancer is present.
  • If you’re losing weight without an explainable cause, this may also be a sign of lung cancer.
  • Hoarseness of voice can indicate lung damage related to asbestos exposure.
  • If a chest X-ray of a lung cancer patient shows pleural plaques, calcification, or fibrosis—all results of asbestos exposure—this may prove that the cancer was caused by contact with asbestos fibers.

Again, many of these symptoms are indicative of a variety of ailments. It is up to medical professionals to determine the cause and severity of your illness, and you should certainly seek the advice of physicians if you exhibit any of these symptoms in conjunction or for extended periods of time. Now that you know what to look for, you can properly seek medical attention for yourself or anyone else who may be concerned about their risk for asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer.