When asbestos dust or fibers cause scarring of the lungs, also called fibrosis, then the diagnosis will typically be asbestosis.
Although published back in 2002, this article from the RadioGraphics medical journal article, “Asbestos: When the Dust Settles—An Imaging Review of Asbestos-related Disease”, still provides a good overview of the clinical, radiologic, and pathologic characteristics of asbestosis.
From that article, which includes 14 radiology images concerning the asbestosis diagnosis process:
- Asbestosis is the term given to lung fibrosis caused by asbestos dusts, which may or may not be associated with pleural fibrosis . There is a dose-response relationship between exposure and severity of fibrosis . The lag between exposure and onset of symptoms is usually 20 years or longer (sometimes more than 40 years) but can be as little as 3 years in cases with constant heavy exposure.
- The changes of asbestosis are more pronounced in the lower lobes and subpleurally but often extend to involve the middle lobe and lingula. Upper lobes can be involved in advanced cases. Honeycombing, as in other fibrotic lung diseases, can occur in advanced disease but is not, however, present in the majority….
- Features on chest radiographs include ground-glass opacification, small nodular opacities, “shaggy” cardiac silhouette, and ill-defined diaphragmatic contours. Honeycombing and volume loss are seen in more advanced disease.
- CT, especially high-resolution CT, is more sensitive than plain radiography in depicting asbestosis.
- The main differential diagnosis both radiologically and histopathologically is usual interstitial pneumonitis or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
[Footnotes and references to associated images omitted.]
Some other non-malignant asbestos-related conditions that are less serious than asbestosis include pleural plaques and pleural thickening.
The asbestos-related cancers are malignant mesothelioma and bronchogenic carcinoma such as lung cancer.
This RadioGraphics medical journal article has discussions of and radiology images for those asbestos-related diseases, also.
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