Asbestos-related cancer won’t be overcome anytime soon, doctors say

New methods are giving doctors a better handle on diagnosing and treating asbestos-related cancers, but no cures are on the horizon.

“I think it would be overly optimistic to say it’s going to be cured. I mean we can always dream,” said oncologist Dr. Christopher Lee, an expert on mesothelioma.

Paul Demers, a senior scientist in prevention at the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Toronto, said one of the difficulties in diagnosing mesothelioma is the long latency period — the period between exposure and the development of symptoms — which can sometimes be up to 40 years.

When asbestos fibres are inhaled or ingested, they become trapped in the pleural lining of the lungs. Over time, thousands of tiny fibres cause scarring in the tissue.

New equipment like the CyTOF instrument allows doctors to detect asbestos earlier and with more precision, which could facilitate more effective treatments for asbestos victims.

[Article continues at original source]

Source: Asbestos-related cancer won’t be overcome anytime soon, doctors say


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Deadly Remnants of Asbestos in Italy (photos slideshow)

Although Italy joined asbestos-producing nations in banning the carcinogenic material at the end of the 20th century, thousands of people working in factories and living in public housing had already been exposed. In other words, as the Italian photographer Cinzia Canneri explained, the damage had been done by the 1980s.

Ms. Canneri said it could take up to 30 years after exposure for diseases like asbestosis or mesothelioma to develop. As a result, large numbers of people in the last decade have begun to suffer in Italy and more are expected to — with few legal or medical protections.

“They have not been recognized as victims,” Ms. Canneri said through an interpreter. “They want to speak and be heard.

”To help them, Ms. Canneri spent the last two years closely following asbestos victims, documenting their daily lives and struggles as they deal with new diseases, mourn deceased family members, visit doctors and contemplate whether or not time is running out on their health.

[Article continues at original source]

Source: Deadly Remnants of Asbestos in Italy (photos slideshow)


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Commentary: Firefighters and teachers bear outsize burden of asbestos deaths

Asbestos does not discriminate.

It doesn’t matter who you are – young or old, strong or frail, rich or poor, factory worker or CEO – if you inhale or ingest even one microscopic asbestos fiber, you’re at increased risk of developing a deadly disease whose symptoms may not show up for decades.

But of the estimated 12,000 to 15,000 Americans who die of asbestos-related diseases each year, some groups do bear a disproportionate burden. The death rate is highest for workers in industries in which asbestos is or was extensively used, such as construction, shipbuilding, chemicals and railroads. But while each asbestos death is tragic, the tragedy feels most horrifying and unfair when it strikes those who were exposed through their unselfish service to society. Among those more likely than the average American to die from asbestos exposure are two such groups – one that willingly put themselves in harm’s way, another that may have never known they were at risk: firefighters and teachers.

[Article continues at original source]


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Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Cases Where There Is A History Of Smoking By Plaintiff: See How A Defense Law Firm Looks At These Lawsuits

Recently we came across an article written by two attorneys in Miles & Stockbridge’s Products Liability and Mass Torts Practice Group that provided some insights about how defense lawyers might assess asbestos lung cancer lawsuits.

From the Introduction part of this article, “Asbestos, Smoking and Lung Cancer: Valuing the Venue and Verdict” (subscription required), which was published online in November 2014:

In recent years, courts across the country have seen an increase in lung cancer cases based on alleged asbestos exposure. Many of these cases involve plaintiffs with significant histories of smoking tobacco. Despite this common sense alternative causation, courts vary widely on the impact of this factual scenario depending on the jurisdiction’s utilization of comparative or contributory negligence, recognition of a claim of strict liability, and method of apportionment of damages. Consideration of these factors is essential to evaluate the defense of a case and the potential financial impact of an adverse verdict.

The article continues with discussions of asbestos lung cancer cases from these various perspectives:

  • Comparative Fault
  • Contributory Negligence & Strict Liability
  • Apportionment of Damages
  • Reconciling Fault with Damages
  • Consistent Facts with Inconsistent Results
  • Future Implications

My law firm handles asbestos-related lung cancer cases for plaintiffs with a history of smoking when there is also underlying asbestosis or significant pleural disease present, and these cases are filed as lawsuits or bankruptcy claims against the responsible asbestos companies.


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Pleural Disease Diagnosis Indicates Signifcant Past Exposure To Asbestos And Means There Is An Increased Risk Of Asbestosis, Lung Cancer, Or Mesothelioma

The commonly encountered asbestos-related conditions and diseases mainly relate to the lungs. These include pleural effusion, pleural plaques, and diffuse pleural thickening — collectively referred to as benign pleural disease — as well as asbestosis, lung cancer, and malignant pleural mesothelioma.

In this post we focus on the several types of pleural disease associated with asbestos exposure. For the basic facts we will draw upon an article, “Asbestos: When the Dust Settles—An Imaging Review of Asbestos-related Disease”, which was published in the October 2002 edition of RadioGraphic medical journal.

As an introduction, while asbestosis, asbestos lung cancer, and mesothelioma may be more well-known asbestos-related medical conditions, pleural disease is the most commonly encountered asbestos-related disease. Pleural disease can occur as pleural effusion, plaques, or thickening, as well as atelectasis.

From the above mentioned RadioGraphic medical journal article:

Pleural Effusion

Benign pleural effusions are thought to be the earliest pleural-based phenomenon (1) (Fig 1)…. They usually occur within 10 years of exposure (12), but they can also develop much later…. The development of effusions is thought to be exposure-dependent (11), but they can occur even after minimal exposure (13) and can be dependent on occupation (11).

Pleural Plaques

The most common manifestation of asbestos exposure is pleural plaques, which are discrete areas of fibrosis that usually arise from the parietal pleura but may arise from visceral pleura. They tend to occur 20–30 years after exposure (1). The classic distribution of plaques seen on chest radiographs is the posterolateral chest wall between the seventh and tenth ribs, lateral chest wall between the sixth and ninth ribs, the dome of the diaphragm (virtually pathognomonic), and the mediastinal pleura (1,14) (Fig 2).

Diffuse Pleural Thickening

Diffuse pleural thickening is less specific for asbestos exposure because other causes of exudative effusions can lead to it. It results from thickening and fibrosis of the visceral pleura, which leads to fusion with the parietal pleura (Fig 7), and is preceded by benign pleural effusion (1) (Fig 8). Histologically, there is similarity between pleural thickening and plaques, except that fusion of the pleural layers is suggestive of more intense inflammation (22).

Round Atelectasis

The pathogenesis of round atelectasis is not certain, but it is thought to be due to an inflammatory reaction and fibrosis in the superficial layer of the pleura. As the fibrous tissue matures, it contracts, causing pleura to fold into the lung, which in turn causes atelectasis (28). Asbestos-related round atelectasis is also known as asbestos pseudotumor or Blesovsky syndrome.

The typical chest radiographic appearance is of a rounded peripheral “mass” with or without lung distortion (Fig 10a). Pleural thickening is usually seen. The CT features are of a round or oval mass that abuts the pleura, a “comet tail” of bronchovascular structures going into the mass, and thickening of the adjacent pleura (1,29) (Figs 10b, 11).

The medical significance of a diagnosis of pleural disease is that it often indicates there has been a significant past exposure to asbestos and, as such, it probably means that there is an increased risk of developing asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma for that person.


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Mesothelioma / Asbestos Lung Cancer / Asbestosis: The Basic Facts About These Asbestos-Related Diseases

An estimated 2,000-3,000 new cases of malignant mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the US.

Malignant mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in people over 50; more often in men than women; and, the risk increases with age.

There are 3 types of malignant mesothelioma:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma, which accounts for 75% of cases and starts in the chest cavity
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma, which accounts for about 10-20% of cases and starts in the abdomen
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma, which is rare and starts in the heart

Workers exposed to asbestos in the past are at risk for developing mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Asbestos-related lung cancer occurs inside the lungs.

Asbestosis is not a cancer; rather it is pulmonary fibrosis, or scarring of the lungs, that was caused by years of breathing in asbestos dust and asbestos fibers.


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“No Safe Use”: A Tremendous Piece Of Interactive Journalism About The Terrible Asbestos-Mesothelioma Problem

I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in learning more about asbestos and asbestos-related diseases — the tragic asbestos cancer mesothelioma in particular — take some time to visit this site: “No Safe Use” (Copyright 2014 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights).

It starts with a haunting picture of John Nolan, age 67, blinking his eyes, and this interactive site allows you the option of listening to Mr. Nolan tell the story of his battle with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Thereafter, you will find this seven-part journalistic report about the current asbestos problem in Canada with each part presenting some additional powerful photographs related to this terrible situation.

  • Part 1:   The Invisible Epidemic (which tell us more about the above-mentioned John Nolan)
  • Part 2:   Exposure Is Still Widespread
  • Part 3:   The Boom Years
  • Part 4:   Six Months To Live
  • Part 5:   Officially Safe In Canada
  • Part 6:   What Can Be Done
  • Part 7:   “Stuck In This Body”

From this tremendous piece of work, we leave you with a child’s note:

asbestos-note-by-child


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Medical Journal Article About The Clinical, Radiologic, And Pathologic Characteristics Of Asbestos-Related Disease Asbestosis

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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Global Asbestos Awareness Week: April 1 – April 7, 2014: Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)

AsbestosAwarenessWeekMark your calendar now to check in with the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) for this important event:

Global Asbestos Awareness Week, April 1-7, 2014, brings together asbestos victims and concerned citizens around the world to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and to work towards a global asbestos ban.

In more detail, first, each day the fine folks at ADAO will focus on a different asbestos-related subject and provide a “Mesothelioma Warrior” story for you to read and share.

  • April 1:  Linda Reinstein, “Asbestos: The Toxic Trade Continues.”
  • April 2:  Dr. Richard Lemen, “Asbestos: What Is It?”
  • April 3:  Dr. Arthur Frank, “Why Is Asbestos Bad for My Health?”
  • April 4:  Dr. Ken Takahashi, “Toolkit for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases (ARDs).”
  • April 5:  Keeping Workers Safe.
  • April 6:  A Statement from the U.S. Surgeon General.
  • April 7:  Mesothelioma Warriors Speak Out.

In addition, we encourage you to review and sign the Global Asbestos Awareness Week Declaration for a Worldwide Asbestos Ban.

On April 7th, 2014, ADAO will be publishing the Global Asbestos Awareness Week Declaration for a Worldwide Asbestos Ban and list of signatories of those who pledged their support.


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National Institute For Occupational Safety And Health (NIOSH) Study About Deaths From Mesosthelioma And Asbestosis Published In January 2014 Medical Journal

From the Abstract for this recently published 2014 article about the loss of life attributable to asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, “Diseases attributable to asbestos exposure: Years of potential life lost, United States, 1999-2010”, we get these sobering facts about the number of years lost to asbestos cancer and and asbestos disease in the US:

BACKGROUND:

Although asbestos use has been restricted in recent decades, asbestos-associated deaths continue to occur in the United States.

OBJECTIVES:

We evaluated premature mortality and loss of potentially productive years of life attributable to asbestos-associated diseases.

METHODS:

Using 1999-2010 National Center for Health Statistics mortality data, we identified decedents aged ?25 years whose death certificate listed asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma as the underlying cause of death. We computed years of potential life lost to life expectancy (YPLL) and to age 65 (YPLL65 ).

RESULTS:

During 1999-2010, a total of 427,005 YPLL and 55,184 YPLL65 were attributed to asbestosis (56,907 YPLL and 2,167 YPLL65 ), malignant mesothelioma (370,098 YPPL and 53,017 YPLL65 ). Overall and disease-specific asbestos-attributable total YPLL and YPLL65 and median YPLL and YPLL65 per decedent did not change significantly from 1999 to 2010.

CONCLUSIONS:

The continuing occurrence of asbestos-associated diseases and their substantial premature mortality burden underscore the need for maintaining prevention efforts and for ongoing surveillance to monitor temporal trends in these diseases.

For more information about this unfortunate situation, see Mesothelioma, Asbestos, and Legal Compensation: Basic Facts over at our Asbestos-Mesothelioma.com website.


 

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