Differentiated and undifferentiated lung tumors and asbestos exposure

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on May 08th, 2020

In most basic terms, cancer refers to cells that grow out-of-control and invade nearby tissues and form tumors. Cells may become cancerous due to the accumulation of genetic mutations in their DNA. Occupational asbestos exposure can also damage DNA and induce tumor formation.

Differentiated cancer is a term used to describe how much or how little tumor tissue looks like the normal tissue it came from. Differentiation is used in tumor grading systems, which are different for each type of cancer, and helps healthcare providers make a prognosis, and allows for comparison of treatment results.

The attribution of lung carcinoma to asbestos exposure

It is well-known that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. However, up to 15% of individuals diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked or used any other form of tobacco.

Exposure to cancer-causing agents such as asbestos in the workplace is mostly responsible for this portion of lung cancer cases.

Cancer hazards related to inhalation of asbestos fibers exist not only for asbestos workers engaged in the direct and regular production of asbestos-containing materials but also for the large number of individuals who sustained such contact on an incidental basis.

Such persons may have been employed in operations where asbestos-containing products were handled during repair or maintenance work in a manner which may produce airborne asbestos, and therefore, inhale the air polluted with asbestos dust:

Diagnosis of asbestos-related lung cancer is based on a history of substantial asbestos exposure and clinical evidence of pulmonary fibrosis caused by the longtime inflammation and scarring due to asbestos fibers and the presence of ancillary findings, such as pleural plaques or diffuse pleural thickening.

The four main categories of cancer affecting the lungs recognized in most classifications based upon the cytologic features of the tumors are:

  • Squamous carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Undifferentiated large cell carcinoma
  • Undifferentiated small cell carcinoma

The clinical symptoms of lung cancer depend largely on the anatomic location of the tumor and its size, for example:

  • Tumors with a central location (bronchi) are more likely to produce early symptoms such as cough, dyspnea, wheezing, and pneumonia
  • Tumors located in the periphery of the lung need to attain a relatively large size before they become symptomatic
  • Symptoms such as pleuritic chest pain, superior vena cava syndrome, or Pancoast syndrome, develop when there is extensive tumor burden within the thorax

How aggressive your lung cancer is?

Cancer cells that have more genetic damage usually grow faster than cancer cells with less genetic damage. Differentiation is the grade of cancer, which is based on how abnormal the cells look under the microscope.

The following terms are assigned by a pathologist based on the appearance of tumor cells:

  • Well-differentiated carcinoma - tend to look a lot like the type of cells from which they rose
  • Moderately-differentiated carcinoma - retain only some of the features of the cells from which they arose
  • Poorly-differentiated carcinoma - looks very different from the cells from which they arose

In well and moderately differentiated tumors, the glandular structures are easily demonstrated on routine microscopy. Tumors that have well-differentiated cancer cells tend to be less aggressive. Simply put, these cancers are less likely to grow and spread quickly and have a better prognosis.

In undifferentiated or poorly-differentiated carcinomas, cells are very immature and "primitive" and look and behave very differently from normal cells in the tissue they started to grow in. Tumors that are undifferentiated or poorly differentiated tend to be more aggressive; they tend to grow more quickly, spread more often and have a worse prognosis than tumors with well-differentiated cancer cells.

Tumor grade and its role in lung cancer prognosis

Physicians use to determine tumor grade to figure out how slowly or quickly lung cancer may be growing. The important thing about tumor grade is that it determines the appropriate treatment, helps healthcare providers make a prognosis, and allows for comparison of treatment results.

Tumor grade is described with a number between 1 and 4, depending on the amount of abnormality or/and as low grade or high grade. The number refers to the degree of differentiation: the lower the number, the lower the grade, respectively, the higher the number, the higher the grade.

High-grade cells appear distinctly abnormal under the microscope and are more likely to grow and spread faster than low-grade tumors. Tumors are graded as follows:

  • GX - grade cannot be assessed
  • G1 - well-differentiated - low grade
  • G2 - moderately differentiated - intermediate grade
  • G3 - poorly differentiated - high grade
  • G4 - undifferentiated - high grade

If you have been diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer, your treatment plan will start with a pathologist's review of your biopsy. The pathologist notes what the cancer cells look like, how they compare to normal cells, and whether they have spread to nearby tissue.

Pathology reports use technical medical language that may be difficult for patients to understand, thus, it is important to discuss the results with your doctor. Relevant pathology notes found across several medical records of patients with lung cancer include:

  • Undifferentiated pulmonary carcinoma 10-SP-17-002919
  • Metastatic poorly differentiated carcinoma BB-18-04495, BB-18-04517
  • Poorly differentiated squamous cell carcinoma MS19-05723
  • Poorly differentiated squamous cell carcinoma C19-2119, S19-3288
  • Poorly differentiated carcinoma S-18-00316

We can help you receive all the compensation you deserve in a timely manner

Between 1940 and 1980, millions of American workers were exposed to asbestos on the job. With the dire prognosis that follows, victims must act quickly when seeking compensation. Diverting focus from medical care to filing a claim can be extremely challenging, and that is why our dedicated attorneys will handle all aspects of your claim so you can focus on recovering without the added legal stress. Since time is of the essence for asbestos-related lung cancer patients, we will prioritize your claim for expedited processing so you can receive the compensation you deserve.

The effects of asbestos-related lung cancer can be devastating and victims will need as much support as possible to help them cope with the consequences. If you have been exposed to asbestos and developed lung cancer or other serious illness as a result, contact our lawyers today. The knowledgeable attorneys at Environmental Litigation Group P.C. will thoroughly review your medical records, work history, or service history, in order to determine your eligibility to receive compensation to help pay for the high cost of lung cancer treatment and provide financial security for your family. When a person with asbestos-related cancer who starts a compensation claim dies before the conclusion of the claim, a family member can continue the claim on his or her behalf.

Family members are able to claim benefits on behalf of the person who died

If you have lost a loved one due to asbestos-related cancer, claiming compensation can never truly make up for that loss, but it can make life much easier during this difficult time. Usually, a compensation claim made on behalf of the deceased family members is a more complicated and difficult process because the person in question is no longer alive to help provide evidence such as work records, medical records, and other documents.

At Environmental Litigation Group P.C., we have helped many clients and their families with the knowledge and resources necessary to successfully tackle the most difficult and complex asbestos claims. Because these cases are time-sensitive, it is important that you immediately consult with our lawyers who have the training, experience, and resources to file successful asbestos claims.