Asbestos was once commonly used for both domestic and industrial applications in Australia. However, the introduction of safer working practices and the resulting discovery of its dangerous effects lead to its banning. During its use, many people were exposed to its fibres and the number of asbestos-related lung diseases continues to rise. According to an article published on Abestos.com, mesothelioma cases in the country will reach 18,000 by 2021.
Until now, there is no definitive treatment for many of the lung diseases brought by asbestos. However, there are treatment technologies used to relieve the pain and symptoms of these diseases. These treatment options are therapeutic and aim to improve a patient’s life. Below are the asbestos-related diseases and their corresponding treatments:
The treatment of asbestosis focuses on helping the patient breathe easier. Breathing techniques, medication and surgery are the most common treatments for this.
Asbestosis is where the fibres scar a patient’s lungs, resulting in painful and laboured breathing. Physicians prescribe certain medications to help patients breathe easily. These range from over-the-counter cough syrups to bronchodilators. Some of these medications include:
Antibiotics - Given to patients who underwent surgery to control the risk of infection
Pain relievers - Reduce the pain caused by inflammation; Doctors may prescribe something stronger if the pain persists.
Bronchodilators – Similarly given to asthma patients, these inhalers give relief to patients’ breathing by relaxing the airway muscles.
Procedures such as thoracentesis drain excess fluid from a patient’s lungs. This relieves chest pain, which allows the lungs to work more efficiently.
The average lifespan after diagnosis for people with mesothelioma is between 6 to 18 months. This type of pleura cancer grows quickly, which makes it hard to detect. Listed are three clinical options used:
Surgery - The main treatment used to cure mesothelioma. Aggressive treatments such as pleurectomy remove any visible tumour from the lung linings. Extra pleural pneumonectomy removes infected parts of a lung or diaphragm. This also helps reduce pain and prolong a patient’s life.
Radiation - Combined with clinical options like surgery, radiation therapy stunts the growth of cancerous tumours. Radiation treatment options include External Beam, Intraoperative and Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation or SMART. This improves life expectancy and relieves pain.
Chemotherapy - Another viable treatment option for all stages of mesothelioma. The chemicals used target and kill specific cells. Physicians can also administer other drugs to match a patient’s comfort and tolerance. Combined with surgery, this therapy helps improve a patient’s survival rate.
Lung cancer is another disease caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres. Lung cancer is different from mesothelioma in that it occurs in the lung tissue itself. However, experts believe that exposure to these fibres can cause lung cancer.
The treatment options vary depending on the type of cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Small cell lung cancer, on the other hand, is treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Combining these options can help relieve symptoms. Smoking is a mitigating risk factor for this type of cancer.
Health problems related to asbestos take years to develop after initial exposure. The progress of these diseases is irreversible. Until a cure is developed, these treatments will help make life easier for the patients.