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Home > Asbestos related diseases > Non-malignant lung diseases


Non-malignant lung diseases



There are a lot of non-malignant lung diseases that can develop after inhalation of asbestos fibers that leads to parenchymal and pleural lung diseases. The latency period is 10-15 years. Chest x-rays can reveal the abnormality as diffuse pleural thickening, which is probably multiple pleural plaques circumscribed or as flat pleural plaque on the parietal diaphragm and pleura.

Sometimes, linear calcification can be also revealed within a plaque. This finding is best seen radiologically along the diaphragm on a lateral view. Rarely, pleural disease can develop to pleural effusions. Rarely these effusions can wane and wax. The effusions may or may not contain eosinophils and are usually exudative. Recurrent pleural effusions can cause diffuse pleural thickening. Pleural plaque is usually asymptomatic and rarely progresses. However all these pleural changes usually don't lead to malignancy but to significant restrictive lung disease.

Pleural thickening can cause a formation of a nodule-like lesion. This lesion resembles a mass and is often associated with pleural disease that is induced by asbestos. CT scan can be used to diagnose malignancy, but sometimes biopsy is needed.

Asbestosis manifests in the lower and mid lung fields as irregular, non-calcified parenchymal opacities that can be defined by chest x-ray pattern. The usual typical latency period of the disease is 20 to 25 years. It can be accompanied by concurrent pleural disease. The inhalation of more asbestos fibers can cause the development of asbestosis.

PNMLD (progressive non-malignant lung disease) is a usual cause of mortality in the UK. About 39000 deaths were caused by chronic lung disease in 1999. Chronic lung disease includes tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonoconiosis, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary circulatory disease and sarcoidosis.

COPD is caused by cigarette smoke. It is the most important non-malignant lung disease. This disease mirrors the extent of cigarette smoking in the community. Cigarette smoking is associated not only with COPD, but also with desquamative interstitial pneumonia (DIP) and respiratory bronchiolitis interstitial pneumonia (RB-ILD).

The most serious problem of both diseases is that they are underdiagnosed because of its progressive nature and high prevalence. They also cost a lot to healthcare systems not only in UK and in the USA but all over the world. The only way to improve the prognosis of COPD is to completely give up smoking. So we can say that the only therapeutic intervention is cessation of smoking.

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