Professor Bruce Robinson AM with a simple explanation of pleural plaques, mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer
A short film about mesothelioma
The Bernie Banton Foundation is not accredited to provide advice, the information provided is for assistance only.
The information on this page is general information and should not be relied on in specific terms for individuals. If you have an asbestos condition, it is important that you obtain specific advice from your specialist simply because medical information that relates to one person may be completely different for another person, despite both suffering the same condition.
In all cases you should consult your medical practitioner to guide you.
There are many asbestos conditions that one can develop following exposure to asbestos fibres/dust. Some asbestos conditions can develop following relatively brief exposure, and other asbestos conditions can occur following moderate to high asbestos fibre exposure.
Importantly, not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos fibres/dust will develop an asbestos related disease (ARD).
If you have been exposed to, or think you may have been exposed to asbestos fibres/dust tell your medical practitioner. This is important, particularly if you have a shortness of breath or a sudden onset of shortness of breath, a persistent cough, ache or swelling in the chest, stomach or groin that cannot be explained by everyday ailments.
Failure to mention your history of asbestos exposure may mean the possibility of you having contracted an asbestos related disease is overlooked.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer (where you have been exposed to asbestos fibres), pleural plaques, asbestos related pleural disease (ARPD) or asbestosis, please Contact Us, as you may be eligible to make a legal claim for compensation – see Legal Help.
The most prevalent asbestos related diseases (ARDs) are:
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is associated with breathing in asbestos fibres/dust. It is accepted mesothelioma may be contracted by having very little exposure to asbestos fibres. The number of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma not caused by being exposed to asbestos fibre/dust in the workplace, is increasing. People who as children cuddled their fathers who had brought home asbestos dust on their clothes, women who washed asbestos dust impregnated work clothes, home renovators and mechanics, and their family members are just some of the people who are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma, many years after being exposed. – It is generally accepted, whilst it varies, mesothelioma takes anywhere from 20 to 60 years from first exposure to asbestos fibres/dust, to diagnosis, with the average being between 30 to 50 years.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer (only known to be caused by asbestos) that develops from within the cells of the mesothelium. The mesothelium is the protective lining that covers many of the human body's internal organs. Mesothelium is a serous membrane that forms the lining of several body cavities: the pleura (thoracic cavity), peritoneum (abdominal cavity) and pericardium (heart sac). Mesothelioma develops on the outer, or inner side of the mesothelium; rarely does it attack the actual organ.
There are three main forms of mesothelioma:
- Pleural Mesothelioma is a malignant tumour that develops in the 'pleura', a two layered serous membrane that is the outer lining of the lung and that is attached to the internal chest wall;
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma develops in the 'peritoneum', the serous membrane lining the cavity of the abdomen and covering the abdominal organs; and
- Pericardial Mesothelioma develops in the 'pericardium', the membrane enclosing the heart, consisting of an outer fibrous layer and an inner double layer of serous membrane.
Mesothelioma may also occur in the ovarian region (in women), and in the testes region (in men), this is known as Reproductive Mesothelioma, and may spread to other areas.
How Mesothelioma Is Diagnosed
Mesothelioma is generally diagnosed by way of biopsy.
Often a patient presents to their local doctor complaining of shortness of breath and/or chest pain. An X-ray or CT scan is then often taken revealing a fluid build up. Following this, a biopsy is arranged which reveals the diagnosis of mesothelioma.
In some circumstances, a biopsy cannot be undertaken, for example if the patient has severe heart problems, and thus the diagnosis must be made clinically using progressive X-rays and CT scans.
When consulting your doctor it is important to mention your history of asbestos exposure, otherwise the possibility you may have contracted an asbestos related disease may be overlooked.
The prognosis for mesothelioma is poor, however the medical and scientific fraternity are dedicated to research in the hope of finding a cure. In doing so, they have also uncovered improvements in treatments that are available to those suffering from this disease. Those treatments include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, radical surgery and palliative care.
Note: Mesothelioma does not mutate into asbestosis, or another asbestos related disease (ARD), a very small percentage of people who have mesothelioma, end up being diagnosed with asbestosis. Likewise, a very small proportion of people who are diagnosed with asbestosis, have, or are subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma (such as Bernie Banton). The only common element between mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other asbestos related diseases (ARDs) is they are all caused by being exposed to asbestos fibre/dust.
If you, or a loved one has been diagnosed with MESOTHELIOMA and you would like to talk to somebody who knows what it feels like to be in similar circumstances to what you are in, whether you are a sufferer or carer, please phone our Freecall® number:
ASBESTOS RELATED LUNG CANCER
Asbestos related lung cancer, as the name suggests is cancer of the lung. Anyone who has been exposed to sufficient quantities of asbestos fibres is at risk of developing lung cancer. Asbestos related lung cancer is quite rare in people who worked with asbestos, or asbestos containing products (ACMs) and did not smoke. It is suggested that those who were exposed to asbestos fibres/dust and smoked are more prone to developing asbestos related lung cancer, than those who did not smoke. To relate asbestos related lung cancer to asbestos fibre exposure (in a legal sense), a person needs to have been exposed to significant quantities of asbestos fibres. Asbestos related lung cancer is generally diagnosed by way of biopsy.
Not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos, even if they smoked, will develop asbestos related lung cancer or another asbestos related disease (ARD).
Treatment for sufferers diagnosed with asbestos related lung cancer is essentially the same as for anyone else diagnosed with lung cancer. Options for treatment include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.
Pleural plaques are fibrous or partially calcified thickened areas formed on the chest wall or lung pleura, caused by exposure to asbestos. The 'pleura', is a two layered serous membrane that is the outer lining of the lung and that is attached to the internal chest wall. It can take many years after exposure to asbestos fibres/dust before pleural plaques can be seen on an x-ray or CT scan.
Pleural plaques are not cancer and do not form into cancer, however, are a definite indicator that a person has been exposed to asbestos fibres, and thus has a possibility of having contracted another asbestos related disease.
Many people who have pleural plaques do not suffer any disability (such as shortness of breath and/or pain). However in some circumstances, pleural plaques can cause a disability.
Not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will develop pleural plaques or another asbestos related disease (ARD).
ASBESTOS RELATED PLEURAL DISEASE (ARPD)
Asbestos Related Pleural Disease (ARPD) is not a cancer, rather it is a benign condition that has some pleural involvement. This may be in the form of a benign pleural effusion (a fluid accumulation within the pleural space) and/or pleural thickening (where the pleura on the lung becomes thickened and compresses the lung). ARPD is a slow onset progressive disease that often causes breathlessness and can also result in chest pain when the lining of the lungs hardens and constricts. A person can develop ARPD as a result of inhaling small quantities of asbestos fibres. ARPD is generally diagnosed by way of an x-ray or CT scan.
Having ARPD is a definite indicator that a person has been exposed to asbestos fibres, and thus has a possibility of having contracted another asbestos related disease.
Not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will develop ARPD or another asbestos related disease (ARD).
Asbestosis can be a very serious disease, it is scarring of lung tissue, but it is not cancer. Usually, a person needs to have been exposed to significant amounts of asbestos fibres/dust (such as in a workplace environment) to develop asbestosis. Asbestosis generally takes 10 years or more to develop from first being exposed to asbestos fibre/dust. The asbestos fibres when breathed in, can sometimes lodge in the lung and cause scarring and hardening. In most cases, it results in shortness of breath, it is often a slowly progressive disease, and in some serious cases it can be fatal. There is no known cure for asbestosis. Asbestosis is often diagnosed by way of chest x-ray or chest CT Scan.
Having asbestosis is a definite indicator that a person has been heavily exposed to asbestos fibres, and thus has a possibility of having contracted another asbestos related disease (ARD).
Not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will develop asbestosis or another asbestos related disease (ARD).
Note: Asbestosis does not mutate into mesothelioma, or asbestos contributed lung cancer, a very small percentage of people who have asbestosis, end up being diagnosed with mesothelioma (such as Bernie Banton). Likewise, a very small proportion of people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma, have, or are subsequently diagnosed with asbestosis. The only common element between asbestosis and mesothelioma, is they are both caused by being exposed to asbestos fibres.
If you, or a loved one has been diagnosed with an ASBESTOS RELATED DISEASE and you would like to talk to somebody who knows what it feels like to be in similar circumstances to what you are in, whether you are a sufferer or carer, please phone our Freecall® number: