ASBESTOS Q & A
1. What is the Purpose of a Medical
There are several important reasons to be screened if you have worked with asbestos, First, it is important to find out if you have any disease. Second, if you do have any asbestos disease, you can find out how to slow the progress of related health problems, learn if any treatment exists, and understand what complications may result. Third, in come cases, early detection of a malignancy can increase the chance of successful treatment. Fourth, you can get information about the health effects of asbestos, how to prevent or reduce current exposures, and get referrals for stopping smoking. Lastly, you will have a record of your work history, your history of asbestos exposure, and your current health status.
Medical screening by itself will not prevent you from developing asbestos-related
disease in the future. But, you will get information about how to protect
A work history is taken and some medical tests will be done. You will be asked to fill out forms describing your personal and work history to determine how much asbestos exposure you have had.
You will then have chest x-rays to look for evidence of scarring (fibrosis) in you lungs or thickening of the pleura (the membrane lining the lungs and chest cavity). If there is evidence of an asbestos-related disease, you will be scheduled for a complete physical exam to look for any effects of the disease on your heart and lungs or other organs.
Finally, you may be asked to take a breathing test called a pulmonary function test. This test will measure how much air your lungs can hold, how fast you can empty your lungs of air, and how well your lungs transfer oxygen to the blood. These different parts of the breathing test indicate how well your lungs are working.
If you are told that you have lung disease from asbestos, there are some steps you can take to help slow the progress of the disease. However, the asbestos in your lungs cannot be removed and there is no cure.
You can try to prevent lung infections-stay away from sick people, get flu shots and stop smoking. Do your best to stay healthy. With asbestos-related lung disease, your lung tissues are weakened, and minor problems like colds and flu can become more serious. You may also be more susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia. If you do get a lung infection, get early treatment.
Learn to recognize the early signs of cancer. Asbestosis and asbestos-related pleural thickening/pleural plaques are nonmalignant lung diseases caused by asbestos. However, if you have asbestosis, you can still get cancer. Some lung cancers can be treated, so early detection is important. We recommend that you repeat the breathing test and have a chest x-ray every year as a precaution if you have asbestos-related lung disease or a significant history of occupational exposure. Also remember, if you stop smoking your chances of getting lung cancer go down.
Pleural Thickening or Pleural Plaques are areas of scarring that thicken the pleura which is the membrane lining the lungs and the chest cavity. If the scarring is diffuse and extends along the chest wall, it is often called pleural thickening. If it is more focal and well defined, it is often called plaques. This scarring shows up on chest x rays and mean that you have inhaled a considerable amount of asbestos. Many exposed workers have pleural thickening or pleural plaques. Pleural thickening and pleural plaques can cause symptoms of shortness of breath and can impair lung function, although they are generally not considered to be as serious an injury as scarring or fibrosis in the lung itself which is called asbestosis. No one knows whether people with pleural plaques will later develop scarring or fibrosis in the lungs or not. We recommend that you have yearly screenings for early detection of other lung disease if you have pleural plaques.
1. What is the Purpose of a Medical Screening?