Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) almost always occurs in smokers, but it has also been linked to asbestos exposure. Medical researchers have established that smoking combined with the presence of asbestos can have an especially toxic impact on the lungs. Asbestos was an enormously popular additive to thousands of industrial products during most of the 20th century, in large part because of its insulating and fire resistant properties. Before it was identified as a carcinogen millions of people were exposed to asbestos in the workplace, and inhaled asbestos fibers as the result of being exposed to worn or deteriorating asbestos products.
What has followed in the last twenty years are hundreds of thousands of lawsuits filed against companies that produced asbestos products and companies that used them, suits filed by former employees who developed asbestosis, mesothelioma, or asbestos lung cancer. The people who have developed these diseases have been successful with their attempts at recovering damages, so much so that several multinational firms were forced to set aside billion dollar trusts for the purpose of paying off damage claims.
Small Cell Lung Cancer and Asbestos
Small cell lung cancer represents 15% of all types of lung cancer but in the case of patients exposed to asbestos, the occurrence of SCLC seems to be relatively frequent. Patients who develop SCLC relatively late in life should look to their work experience for possible exposure to asbestos while on the job. One of the unique characteristics of asbestos related diseases is that they can have long periods of latency. People who have inhaled asbestos fibers may not develop an asbestos-related disease for decades. The average latency for mesothelioma, another form of asbestos related cancer, is about forty years. The asbestos fibers that become embedded in the lungs can take a long time to cause the development of malformed cells, which eventually become malignant cells.
Filing a Claim for Small Cell Lung Cancer
The challenge for any SCLC patient with a history of asbestos exposure is proving that the asbestos was the cause of tumor development. Most claimants are going to be smokers, or former smokers. But the courts have an established history of recognizing the possibility that asbestos may have been a contributing factor for cancer development in patients with a smoking history.
The only known cause for mesothelioma cancer is asbestos; studies have shown that a history of smoking greatly increases the risk of developing this disease. While there are several potential causes for small cell lung cancer, filing a claim is a worthwhile endeavor for those patients with a history of smoking and of asbestos exposure. The key to a successful effort is retaining an experienced asbestos attorney who knows what sort of evidence the courts and/or the asbestos trust funds are going to require. But SCLC patients and their families are entitled to compensation if asbestos played a role in the development of the disease.