Pleural plaques are not cancer and do not cause cancer. A pleural plaque is a thickened patch known as fibrosis on the pleura. The pleura is the two layers of membrane that line the chest wall and cover the lungs. Pleural plaques often do not cause any symptoms.
Asbestos Related Pleural Diseases (ARPD) is a condition that can describe one or a number of asbestos conditions. Often it will include diffuse pleural thickening. This condition can sometimes produce symptoms such as breathlessness.
Asbestosis When asbestos fibres have stayed in the lungs, scar tissue forms around them. This scar tissue may increase over time and hamper the movement of oxygen into the blood stream. Someone presenting with asbestosis will often feel short of breath, suffer chest tightness, and crackles will be heard upon listening to the chest. Asbestosis can slowly progress over time and it is usually found in people who have had significant exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is associated with asbestos exposure. It can take anywhere from 10-60 years to develop however the average latency period between exposure and diagnosis is about 35 years. Mesothelioma may occur in one or more places in the cells covering the surface of the lung and the lining of the chest wall (the pleura), the abdomen (the peritoneum) or the sac like space around the heart (the pericardium). Someone with pleural mesothelioma may experience severe chest pain, pleural effusion (fluid on the lungs), a dry cough and breathlessness. There is currently no cure for this disease, however, treatment may prolong and improve quality of life.
Lung Cancer may occur amongst anyone who has been exposed to a certain threshold level of asbestos. If diagnosed early it is possible the cancer may be totally removed by surgery. Those who have been exposed to asbestos and smoke cigarettes are particularly prone to develop lung cancer. Therefore if you smoke and have been exposed to asbestos we encourage you to stop smoking.