According to the Mayo Clinic health website, workers exposed to (primarily) airborne asbestos before the late 1970s — including asbestos miners, refinery workers, shipyard workers, auto mechanics, construction workers, demolition workers and electricians — are at risk of asbestos-related illnesses.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the six most common asbestos-related illnesses are mesothelioma, lung cancer, larynx cancer, esophageal cancer, colon cancer and asbestosis.
Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that attacks a lining of tissue covering most internal organs. The median survival rate for mesothelioma is nine to 12 months. Symptoms include pain in the rib cage or abdomen, painful cough, difficulty breathing, lumps of tissue under the skin in the chest or abdomen and unexplained weight loss.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S. This may be because symptoms do not usually appear until the disease has progressed to the terminal stage. Symptoms include persistent cough, coughing blood, shortness of breath, hoarseness and wheezing, chest and bone pain, headache or unexplained weight loss.
Larynx cancer is a cancer of the voice box. Symptoms include painful cough, vocal changes, swallowing problems, ear pain and unexplained weight loss. Treatment can include radiation, chemotherapy, drug therapy and surgery. Surgery may be needed to remove damaged parts of the throat. This may mean prolonged therapy to re-learn swallowing and speaking, a throat stoma or use of an artificial voice box.
Esophageal cancer produces tumors in the passage between the throat and stomach. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing or frequent choking while eating, pain in the chest, indigestion, unexplained weight loss and coughing. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to remove cancerous tissue are common treatments.
Colon cancer usually begins with small benign polyps that develop into tumors. These are screened for during routine lower-GI procedures. Symptoms of colon cancer can include changes in bowel habits, bleeding, persistent abdominal pain, fatigue and unexplained weight loss.
Asbestosis, a respiratory disorder, causes shortness of breath and painful coughing due to scarring of lung tissue after exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestosis symptoms do not usually appear until many years after exposure. Asbestosis can also cause a deformity called finger clubbing, where the fingertips become rounded.
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