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Asbestos Signs and Symptoms

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Asbestos is a group of minerals with thin microscopic fibers. Because these fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity, asbestos has been mined and used widely in the construction, automotive, and other industries.

If products containing asbestos are disturbed, the tiny fibers are released into the air. When they are breathed in, they can become trapped in the lungs and stay there for many years. Over time these fibers can accumulate and lead to serious health problems, including:

* Asbestosis, an inflammatory condition of lungs that can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and eventually scarring of the lungs that makes it hard to breathe.
* Mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, chest cavity, or abdomen.
* Lung cancer.
* Other lung problems, including pleural plaques (changes in the membranes surrounding the lungs), thickening of the membranes that surround the lungs, and pleural effusions (abnormal collections of fluid between the lungs and the inside wall of the chest.

Asbestos Signs & Symptoms

The respiratory tract is the most common site of asbestos exposure symptoms. Symptoms differ depending on the particular problem.

The main symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include:

* Persistent cough that produces mucus
* Chest tightness
* Chest pain
* Loss of appetite
* Dry, crackling sound in lungs while inhaling

Symptoms of lung cancer can include:

* Cough (including coughing up blood)
* Wheezing
* Unexplained weight loss
* Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
* Persistent chest pain
* Hoarseness
* Anemia

The main symptoms of mesothelioma of the lungs are shortness of breath and chest pain. Symptoms of abdominal mesothelioma can include:

* Weight loss
* Swelling and pain in the abdomen
* Blood clotting abnormalities
* Bowel obstruction
* Anemia
* Fever

Because many conditions share these symptoms, having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have asbestos-related cancer or lung damage. If you experience symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor.
Diagnosing Asbestos-Related Problems

Diagnosing asbestos-related health problems can take some time. The diagnostic process will begin with a medical history and physical exam. Your doctor will ask you about other medical problems you have as well as any history of asbestos exposure. Depending on the findings of the exam and history, your doctor may order tests including the following:

* X-rays of the chest and/or abdomen
* Lung function tests
* CT scans
* MRI
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