According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there are more than 2,000 UK deaths from asbestos-related lung cancer each year. Tradespeople were particularly at risk of being exposed to asbestos due to the material’s extensive use in the construction industry before the dangers were understood. The HSE estimates that as many as 20 tradespeople a week could be dying from asbestos damage to their lungs. Unfortunately, lung cancer, whether it is caused by asbestos or other factors, is typically fatal within a few years of diagnosis.
What is asbestos-related lung cancer?
Asbestos-related lung cancer is a form a cancer of the lung tissue where the primary cause is due to exposure to asbestos, a natural but deadly fibrous material that was once prized for its heat and fire resistant properties.
It is the same type of lung cancer that is caused by smoking and is treated in the same way, with surgery to remove it, if possible, and radiotherapy and chemotherapy, if appropriate. Heavy asbestos exposure is usually required to cause lung cancer and it can sometimes be difficult to be sure whether the lung cancer has been caused by asbestos or some other cause, such as smoking.
What causes asbestos-related lung cancer?
Exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer in a similar way to tobacco smoke. Tobacco and asbestos work together to increase the risk of developing lung cancer. This means that, if you have been exposed to asbestos and you have smoked, then your chances of developing lung cancer are higher than if you had only been exposed to asbestos and never smoked. According to research conducted by the HSE back in 2005 (the latest figures), only 2% of lung cancer deaths occurred in asbestos-exposed workers who had never smoked.
Anyone who worked with asbestos, or had close contact with someone who did, is at an increased risk of developing asbestos-related lung cancer. Handling asbestos was common in the following industries:
Whilst the use of asbestos in all of its forms was finally banned in 1999, it is still possible to be exposed to this harmful material, because even now it can be found in many buildings built before 2000. Asbestos is considered to be relatively harmless if it is in good condition and left alone. However, if it is damaged or disturbed, the deadly microscopic fibres can enter the air and be breathed in, where they can cause damage to the lungs.
What are the symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer?
Due to the nature of asbestos-related lung cancer, the symptoms can take years, if not decades, to show. Eventually, however, sufferers may develop the following symptoms:
- A persistent cough
- Coughing up blood
- Persistent breathlessness
- Persistent chest infections
- Persistent tiredness
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Aches or pains when breathing or coughing
Due to the fact that noticeable symptoms do not usually manifest until the later stages, the outlook for those diagnosed with lung cancer is not as good as for many other types of cancer. According to the NHS, one in three people with the condition live for at least a year after diagnosis, and just one in 20 live for at least 10 years.
Compensation for asbestos-related lung cancer
If you are suffering from asbestos-related lung cancer, it may be possible to claim compensation from the employer that allowed you to be exposed to asbestos – even if they have gone out of business in the meantime. It may also be possible to claim compensation on behalf of a close relative who has passed away from asbestos-related lung cancer.
If you have any questions or want to know if you might have valid a claim for yourself or on behalf of a relative, please don’t hesitate to contact Dedicated Accident Solicitors on 01332 897 222 or send us a message us here.
Read about just a few of our successful asbestos claim cases: