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When Is a Lung Biopsy Necessary for Your Asbestos Case?

By Treven Pyles

Posted on July 14th, 2017 in

Each asbestos trust fund has a series of distinctive requirements for individuals who seek financial compensation. Nevertheless, when it comes to medical criteria, the vast majority of asbestos trust funds ask claimants to base their diagnosis either on a physical exam or on a pathology report.

- By Treven Pyles

The rapidly increasing popularity of asbestos as a convenient and accessible raw material has determined U.S. manufacturers to employ it for the production of over 5,000 consumer products throughout the last century. Since asbestos has numerous exploitable properties, such as remarkable fire resistance and excellent tensile strength, this highly carcinogenic mineral would also be present in a wide range of other industrial facilities, from oil refineries to paper mills. Considering the unprecedented prevalence of asbestos in occupational settings, it should not come as a shock that over 11 million people were exposed to toxic fibers in the workplace between 1940 and 1978.

As a consequence of past occupational exposure, the number of new mesothelioma cases has grown dramatically in recent years. Over 100,000 Americans are expected to die of this aggressive form of cancer within the following 40 years. However, mesothelioma is far from being the only disease asbestos can cause. The inhalation of asbestos fibers may also result in lung cancer, as well as in multiple types of non-malignant pulmonary disease. In addition to great physical and emotional distress, people struggling with such terrible illnesses may also experience financial difficulty, since treatment is often incredibly expensive. The average cost of mesothelioma treatment is approximately $84,796.

It is crucial to know that as a victim of occupational asbestos exposure, you can recover financial compensation for your injury, whether you suffer from asbestosis or mesothelioma. The 60 operating asbestos trust funds in the U.S. represent the main source of compensation to asbestos victims. After filing a claim with the asbestos trust fund setup by the company responsible for your illness, you will receive a sum of money which can help you cover the cost of your medical bills and treatment. Nevertheless, since preparing a claim for submission is a very complex process which can easily go off course, it is strongly recommended to have a lawyer specialized in asbestos litigation assist you.

One of the numerous advantages of filing your asbestos claim with the help of a lawyer is that they will efficiently take care of the most paperwork for you so that you will be able to continue focusing on your health. There are only two types of documents you will need to provide your attorney with before they start working on your asbestos claim: proof of employment and proof of diagnosis. Unless it is submitted along with one or multiple medical documents clearly stating the disease you are suffering from, your claim will not be approved. Since lung biopsies are a common diagnostic test for asbestos-related diseases, you may be wondering whether you need to undergo one before filing for compensation.

Doctors Will Recommend a Biopsy Only when Lung Cancer or Mesothelioma Is Suspected

A lung biopsy is the most accurate test when it comes to diagnosing lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma. Depending on the technique it involves, a biopsy can be of three types:

  • needle biopsy, during which a sample of fluid is collected from the lungs using a needle
  • camera-assisted biopsy - a minimally invasive procedure which entails a surgeon collecting a tissue sample from the lungs by inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached through one or more small incisions in the chest
  • surgical biopsy, during which a surgeon will extract a sample of lung tissue via a larger incision

The fluid or tissue sample is subsequently examined by a pathologist, who will determine what disease is affecting your lungs after conducting a thorough, complex analysis. A biopsy can reveal essential information about your illness, including stage, cell type, and prognosis. In general, needle biopsies are not very reliable, as fluid usually contains a smaller amount of cancer cells, which makes it more difficult for pathologists to properly analyze the sample. While a camera-assisted biopsy is the most desirable option out of the three since it is minimally invasive and also has a high accuracy rate, patients who are in particularly poor health may not qualify for this procedure.

However, lung biopsies are only recommended when there is a suspicion of mesothelioma or lung cancer. Regardless of the technique it implies, a biopsy is still a quite invasive procedure which may cause additional health issues to people who are already struggling with a pulmonary disease. Ultimately, if you have a history of asbestos exposure and experience symptoms, only a specialist will be able to tell you whether a lung biopsy is suitable for you.

Undergoing a Lung Biopsy before Filing a Claim with Asbestos Trust Funds Is Not Always a Necessity

Each asbestos trust fund has a series of distinctive requirements for individuals who seek financial compensation. Nevertheless, when it comes to medical criteria, the vast majority of asbestos trust funds ask claimants to base their diagnosis either on a physical exam or on a pathology report. Therefore, you do not have to undergo a lung biopsy to request compensation from asbestos trust funds as long as you have another reliable document supporting your diagnosis.

A pathology report is necessary only in the following cases:

  • When you request compensation for other types of cancer. If you have developed a different type of cancer, other than mesothelioma or lung cancer as a result of occupational asbestos exposure, your claim has to be accompanied by a pathology report, for which you will have to undergo a biopsy. Most asbestos trust funds provide financial compensation to asbestos victims suffering from laryngeal, colorectal, stomach, pharyngeal, and esophageal cancer. However, the presence of one of these illnesses by itself is insufficient and will not grant you compensation unless you also have an underlying, non-malignant asbestos-related disease like asbestosis, pleural plaques or pleural thickening.
  • When families seek compensation for individuals who had not been formally diagnosed during their lifetime. The families of asbestos victims can recover financial compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. While the legal process is very different than submitting a claim to asbestos trust funds, evidence of disease is still a major requirement. If the injured person had not received a proper diagnosis before their death, family members will have to request an autopsy in order to pursue the case. A forensic pathologist will identify the exact asbestos-related diseases they were suffering from by analyzing samples of lung tissue.

A Lung Biopsy Is the Most Accurate Test for Diagnosing Pleural Mesothelioma, Being Able to Detect It in Over 80% of Cases

Because pathologists can thoroughly examine the content of the tumor, a lung biopsy represents the ultimate way of confirming a mesothelioma diagnosis. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, thoracotomy and thoracoscopy are the most reliable types of biopsy when it comes to diagnosing pleural mesothelioma. The former, which is a surgical biopsy, has shown a high accuracy rate of 83%, whereas the latter - a camera-assisted procedure - has been a definitive diagnostic method in 74% of cases. However, researchers are constantly seeking to improve biopsy techniques and as such, a minimally invasive, innovative procedure was recently found to yield remarkable benefits for potential mesothelioma patients. A percutaneous image-guided biopsy, which entails a significantly lower risk of complications, was able to detect mesothelioma in 81% of individuals.

Another reason why lung biopsies are a tremendously valuable diagnostic tool is that they can help specialists distinguish between lung cancer and mesothelioma. While this aspect is crucial for your prognosis, as a correct diagnosis will give you access to appropriate and effective treatment, it is also extremely important from a legal point of view. Mesothelioma is the most severe disease which can ensue as a consequence of asbestos exposure and accordingly, people who struggle with it are entitled to the largest amount of compensation from asbestos trust funds. Therefore, not only will a wrong diagnosis affect your health, but it will also prevent you from claiming the compensation you actually deserve.

The rate of misdiagnosis is alarmingly high among mesothelioma patients. Over 30% of them were incorrectly diagnosed with another disease before mesothelioma was detected, as the symptoms of this cancer can easily be attributed to a more common respiratory condition like pneumonia or bronchitis. It is not uncommon for mesothelioma to be mistaken for lung cancer either since both diseases display signs such as chest pain, a persisting cough, and shortness of breath. Thus, if you have a history of asbestos exposure and your doctor suspects you might be suffering from lung cancer or mesothelioma, a biopsy will immediately shed light on your actual illness. If you qualify for a lung biopsy, we strongly advise you to undergo it.

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