Diseases Caused By Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos and human health simply do not mix. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a known carcinogen linked to several fatal illnesses, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, and several non-malignant diseases including asbestosis.

Common medical tests used by doctors to diagnose an asbestos-related lung disease include: chest x-ray, CT scan, pulmonary function test, and biopsy. Oftentimes, the initial suspicion of a disease comes from a primary care physician, who then, based on that suspicion, refers the patient to a pulmonologist/lung specialist. If a malignancy is suspected, the patient is usually referred to a surgeon to perform one or more biopsies.

Companies in a wide range of industries hid the facts about asbestos for decades to keep the public in the dark and keep their bottom lines further in the black. Workers and their loved ones have been left to bear the burden for this negligence and callousness, dealing with the effects of incurable diseases and the emotional and sometimes financial wreckage they leave behind. Far too many have lost their lives for doing nothing more than going to work to earn a living for their loved ones.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, the time to act is now. At the law firm of Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers, our attorneys know how to identify liable parties and maximize compensation for the victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Call 423-265-2385 to arrange a free consultation with an experienced Chattanooga asbestos litigation attorney.

Read on for more information on a wide variety of asbestos-related diseases and conditions. Many of these conditions have overlapping or similar symptoms, and it is possible to suffer from more than one of them at the same time. This information we are providing is not a substitute for the diagnosis and care of your primary physician or specialist. We encourage you to seek the guidance of your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms. If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition, we will be here to help you pursue your legal right to compensation.


Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer uniquely linked to asbestos exposure. It is an incurable disease. Early diagnosis and treatment can ease the symptoms. The average life expectancy of someone diagnosed with mesothelioma is 12-18 months.

There are two types of mesothelioma, both caused by tiny asbestos fibers that are inhaled and then find their way into the mesothelium – a thin membrane that lines the lungs and other internal organs:

  • Pleural mesothelioma: affects the lining of the lungs, resulting in difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, fluid buildup and a persistent cough
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: affects the lining of the stomach, resulting in abdominal pain, vomiting, loss of appetite and anemia

Lung Cancer

Many people make the mistake of assuming lung cancer – the second most common cancer in the United States – is only a threat to smokers. Unfortunately, Tennessee workers who never picked up a cigarette have succumbed to lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure.

While most lung cancer cases involve smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer is multiplied when that person also has a history of asbestos exposure. Much of this exposure took place on job sites where asbestos was present, while others were exposed at home as a result of coworkers bringing asbestos home on their clothing or asbestos being released into the air during home renovation projects.

Like mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer tends to lie in wait. With a latency period between 15 and 35 years, it is possible to go many years in between the initial exposure to asbestos and showing symptoms of lung cancer.

Symptom of asbestos-related lung cancer include:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weight loss


Like mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestosis is a disease that results from breathing in asbestos fibers. It can result in scarring of the lungs, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and other symptoms that are common in other asbestos-related illnesses. Having asbestosis increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer, especially for people with a history of smoking. Asbestosis is a non-malignant disease, but it can be fatal in rare but severe cases. Sometimes doctors, either unaware of prior asbestos exposure or else seeking to avoid legal implications, label asbestosis under the more general term pleural fibrosis.

Pleural Plaques

These are deposits of hyalinized collagen fibers in the parietal pleura. These deposits are the result of exposure to asbestos and typically take 20 or more years to develop. Pleural plaques are often found along with asbestosis. While the deposits themselves are not fatal, their presence can indicate the conditions are in place for diseases such as asbestosis, which increases the risk of fatal illnesses such as lung cancer.

Pleural Thickening

The pleura, the ultra-thin lining surrounding the lungs, can become excessively scarred as a result of exposure to asbestos fibers. This scarring condition is known as pleural thickening. Symptoms include chest pain, pleural effusion (the build-up of fluid in the pleura), and difficulty breathing. This is a common condition among workers who were exposed to asbestos on the job. When the thickened layer calcifies, the condition is known as pleural calcification. Early pleural thickening has no symptoms. As the condition worsens and more scarring forms around the lungs, breathing becomes increasingly difficult.

Assert Your Rights Today

The time to act is now if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness. We will fully pursue your case against negligent parties to ensure you are fully compensated for medical costs, pain and suffering, lost earnings and other damages. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Skip to content