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Living With Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases

The outlook for people who have asbestos-related lung diseases varies. It will depend on which disease a person has and how much it has damaged the lungs.

No treatments can reverse the effects of asbestos on your lungs. However, treatments may help relieve symptoms and prevent complications. If you have lung cancer, treatments may help slow the progress of the disease.

Ongoing Care

If you have an asbestos-related lung disease, you'll need routine followup care for the rest of your life. This may include chest x rays and lung function tests every 3 to 5 years.

Follow your treatment plan as your doctor prescribes. Call your doctor if you notice new or worsening symptoms.

Talk with your doctor about whether you should get flu and pneumonia vaccines. These vaccines can help lower your risk for lung infections. Avoiding lung infections can help prevent other, more serious complications.

If you smoke, quit. Smoking raises your risk for lung cancer if you have pleural plaque, pleural effusion, or asbestosis. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.

If you have trouble quitting smoking on your own, consider joining a support group. Many hospitals, workplaces, and community groups offer classes to help people quit smoking.

For more information about how to quit smoking, go to the Diseases and Conditions Index Smoking and Your Heart article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s “Your Guide to a Healthy Heart.” Although these resources focus on heart health, they include general information about how to quit smoking.

Emotional Issues and Support

Living with an asbestos-related lung disease may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. Talk about how you feel with your health care team. Talking to a professional counselor also can help. If you’re very depressed, your doctor may recommend medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.

Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to living with an asbestos-related lung disease. You can see how other people who have the same symptoms have coped with them. Talk with your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.

Support from family and friends also can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.

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May 1, 2011