Asbestos related diseases – what they are and where to get help

These days, the harmful effects of asbestos are much more well-known. However, asbestos was once a widely used construction material going decades back known only for its benefits. Due to its widespread use, the bad effects of the substance have affected thousands of people, but with so many of the related diseases taking years to develop, asbestos was not banned until many years later.

There are a number of diseases caused by asbestos, including:

Benign pleural disease

xrayBenign pleural disease is the inhalation of asbestos fibres can result in the thickening and irritation of the pleura (or lining) of the lung. This can cause patches or plaques, as well as the secretion of fluid into the pleural cavity – the space between the two pleural layers. While not fatal, this disease can restrict breathing and requires medical help to drain the fluid and regain normal breathing.


Asbestosis is the scarring of the lungs from asbestos. It makes breathing difficult and strained and there is no cure. This disease occurs in people who have had a lot of exposure to asbestos, such as former miners and workers and is now quite rare. It can significantly affect quality of life and even result in death.

Lung cancer

Similar to what smokers get from cigarettes, lung cancer is a disease that can take decades to develop. Symptoms of lung cancer may include a cough, blood in the sputum, weight loss and chest infections that don’t seem to clear up. Due to the long time it takes for lung cancer to become apparent, many people are diagnosed late and this can result in the cancer spreading, with no cure. This is often treated with radiotherapy. If caught early, surgery can sometimes fix the problem.


mesothelioma imageAnother type of cancer, this is a cancer of the lining of the lung. Like lung cancer, it can take a long time for mesothelioma to develop. In fact, some cases have taken up to half a century to become apparent. Thankfully, only a very small percentage of those exposed to asbestos will develop this disease. The main symptoms are difficulty breathing and chest pain, but these can also be symptoms of other conditions including heart disease, so it is important to check with your doctor. Other symptoms can include weight loss and coughing up sputum and blood. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma and survival after diagnosis may only be a matter of months. It is the most severe disease caused by asbestos.

AsbestosIf you or someone you know is affected by an asbestos related disease, you can get support and advice from the Asbestosis and Mesothelioma Association of Australia (AMAA). Call 1800 017 758 to get in touch.