If you got your pathology report back recently and it said lung cancer, you may be wondering what to do now. A lung cancer diagnosis is scary, and if the disease was caused by asbestos exposure, you might not know where to turn. But there have been advances in treatment for asbestos-caused cancers, so there is hope.
The pathologist’s report on your asbestos-caused lung cancer is critical because it contains details about your disease and how it can be most successfully treated.
Below is more information about lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, pathology, and options for treatment.
How Does Asbestos Exposure Cause Lung Cancer?
When you inhale asbestos fibers, invisible particles can get stuck in the lung tissue. Over the years, the dangerous fibers can cause cellular and genetic damage to lung cells so that cancer forms. (Asbestos.com)
Asbestos-related lung cancer can take 15-35 years to develop from initial asbestos exposure. Because of the long latency period, most cases of lung cancer were caused by asbestos exposure from years ago.
How Lung Cancer Is Diagnosed
If you were exposed to asbestos and have a pathology report that says lung cancer, understanding how the disease was diagnosed is critical. Diagnostic procedures for lung cancer, including that caused by asbestos exposure, include: (Cancer.org)
- Imaging tests: Your doctor will rely partially on imaging tests to confirm a lung cancer diagnosis. A chest X-ray is the first imaging test done by doctors. If they see anything out of the ordinary, the physician may perform additional imaging tests, such as an MRI, CT, or PET scan.
- Sputum cytology: If you are experiencing a cough and are producing phlegm and sputum, looking at it under a microscope may reveal lung cancer cells. (org)
- Biopsy: This is a tissue sample of abnormal cells. Your doctor can do a biopsy in several ways, including a bronchoscopy. In this procedure, your doctor will look at abnormal areas of the lungs with a lighted tube that is inserted down the throat and into the lungs. Also, a mediastinoscopy can be done where a small incision is made at the base of the neck. Surgical tools are inserted under the breastbone to remove tissue samples.
After your doctor has diagnosed you with asbestos-related lung cancer, he will determine the stage of the disease. Identifying the stage will help you and your physician determine the best treatment. Stages of lung cancer range from I to IV. Lower stages suggest the disease has not spread yet, while higher stages indicate disease progression to other parts of the body.
Pathologists and Lung Cancer Diagnoses
Pathologists are specialized physicians who analyze diseased tissues to identify asbestos-caused lung cancer, mesothelioma, and many other diseases. These specialists are experts in how cells are changed by cancer and what happens from these changes. (Asbestos.com)
Pathologists who diagnose asbestos-caused lung cancer and mesothelioma are experts in tumors that are caused by asbestos exposure. They know the difference between lung cancer, lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, and mesothelioma.
Below is more information about how pathologists diagnose lung cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure.
Anatomical characteristics of your lung cancer tumors can help the doctor to diagnose the disease. But the pathologist needs to study the cells that he or she sees under a microscope. With the microscope, the doctor can tell the difference between lung cancer cells, lung cancer cells related to asbestos exposure, and mesothelioma.
They also can diagnose subtypes of lung cancer with histology (study of tissue samples) and cytology (study of fluid samples).
Histology involves the study of tissue samples that are gotten through a biopsy. Histopathology refers to studying the cells in diseased human tissue.
It is necessary for a pathologist to look at tumor cells under a microscope to confirm the type of asbestos cancer you have, whether it is lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Pulmonary Function Tests
If your pathologist has diagnosed you with asbestos-related lung cancer, your physician may order pulmonary function tests to see how well your lungs are functioning. These tests are critical if surgery is being considered to treat your lung cancer. Your doctor may recommend removing as many of the tumors as possible, or removing some or all of the diseased lung.
Treatments for Lung Cancer
There are several approaches to treat patients with asbestos-related lung cancer. Which one is best for you depends on many factors, including age, health, cancer stage, and more. Specific treatment regimens are needed when your lung cancer was caused by asbestos exposure, compared to smoking or other causes. Treatment options include: (Cancercenter.com)
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs are often used to treat asbestos-related lung cancer before surgery to reduce the size of tumors. It also is an option after surgery or radiation to treat cancer cells that may have survived the treatment.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation can be effective on lung cancer tumors by focusing intense radiation beams to shrink them. Radioactive implants also can be placed near the tumors to treat them. Radiation is usually more effective on lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure than mesothelioma. Mesothelioma tumors tend to spread out in the pleural tissue, making them more difficult to target.
- Surgery: There are several surgeries that may be used to remove as much of the cancerous tumors as possible.
- Immunotherapy: This is a drug therapy that encourages the body’s immune system to attack the cancer cells. It is frequently used in combination with chemotherapy and/or surgery.
- Targeted therapy: These are other types of drugs that can be used with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery to kill cancer cells in the lungs.
If your pathologist has that you have lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, there is hope. Lung cancer is easier to treat than mesothelioma because lung cancer tumors are more isolated and can be targeted more effectively with surgery and radiation. Once you have received your diagnosis, work with your medical team to design the best treatment program for your lung cancer.