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Asbestos-Vermiculite Medical Conditions

Pleural Abnormalities

Changes in the lining of the lungs (pleura) such as thickening, plaques, calcification, and fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion) may be early signs of asbestos exposure. 


Asbestosis is a progressive, long-term disease of the lungs caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. These fibers accumulate in the lungs causing irritation, inflammation and eventually the scarring of lung tissue. This scarring inhibits the passage of oxygen and carbon dioxide through the lungs. Often progressing slowly, asbestosis has a latency period of at least 10 years and can grow to be disabling and potentially fatal.

Symptoms of asbestosis include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough that produces mucus
  • Chest tightness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry, crackling sound in the lungs when inhaling

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a malignant tumor that invades and obstructs the passage of air through the lungs. A person’s likelihood of developing lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure is increased 50 times by smoking cigarettes.

Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood
  • Labored breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent chest pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Anemia


Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs (pleura) or contents of the abdomen (peritoneum) caused almost primarily by asbestos exposure. It can take 40 years for mesothelioma, to develop after a person’s first exposure to asbestos.

Symptoms of mesothelioma include the following, though some patients experience no symptoms at all:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain and/or persistent cough
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen or feet due to a build-up of fluid
  • Nausea
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Anemia

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is a term used to refer to cancer that develops in the colon or the rectum. Some literature has shown that those exposed to asbestos have twice the risk of developing colon cancer. Most experts support this view.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • General abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)
  • Weight loss with no known reason
  • Constant tiredness
  • Vomiting

These symptoms may be caused by colorectal cancer or by other conditions. It is important to check with a doctor.

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The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.