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Asbestos-Related Lung Disease - Article
ABSTRACT: The inhalation of asbestos fibers may lead to a number of respiratory diseases, including lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural plaques, benign pleural effusion, and malignant mesothelioma. Although exposure is now regulated, patients continue to present with these diseases because of the long latent period between exposure and clinical disease. Presenting signs and symptoms tend to be nonspecific; thus, the occupational history helps guide clinical suspicion. High-risk populations include persons in construction trades, boilermakers, shipyard workers, railroad workers, and U.S. Navy veterans. Every effort should be made to minimize ongoing exposure. Patients with a history of significant asbestos exposure may warrant diagnostic testing and follow-up assessment, although it is unclear whether this improves outcomes. Patients with significant exposure and dyspnea should have chest radiography and spirometry. The prognosis depends on the specific disease entity. Asbestosis generally progresses slowly, whereas malignant mesothelioma has an extremely poor prognosis. The treatment of patients with asbestos exposure and lung cancer is identical to that of any patient with lung cancer. Because exposure to cigarette smoke increases the risk of developing lung cancer in patients with a history of asbestos exposure, smoking cessation is essential. Patients with asbestosis or lung cancer should receive influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations.