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How Are Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases Treated?

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

Treatments for Pleural Plaque, Pleural Effusion, and Asbestosis

If you have pleural plaque, pleural effusion, or asbestosis and you smoke, your doctor will advise you to quit smoking. People who have these conditions can lower their risk for lung cancer if they quit smoking.

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.

If you have trouble breathing or shortness of breath and a very low blood oxygen level, your doctor may recommend oxygen therapy. For this treatment, you're given oxygen through nasal prongs or a mask. Oxygen therapy may be done at home or in a hospital or other health facility.

If excess fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion) is making it hard for you to breathe, thoracentesis (THOR-ah-sen-TE-sis) may help. For this procedure, your doctor will insert a thin needle or plastic tube into the space between your lungs and chest wall. He or she will then draw out the excess fluid.

Treatments for Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma

If you have lung cancer or mesothelioma, your treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or targeted therapy. (Targeted therapy uses medicines or other substances to find and attack specific lung cancer cells without harming normal cells.)

Your doctor may prescribe medicines to prevent fluid buildup, ease pain, or relieve other complications of your disease.

If you have lung cancer or mesothelioma, talk with your doctor about whether you should get flu and pneumonia vaccines. These vaccines can help lower your risk for lung infections.

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Last Updated: May 1, 2011