If you have been exposed to asbestos, it is important to assess the amount
of your exposure. If you were exposed only very briefly, or only at very low
levels, your risk of a resulting disease is probably low. However, it you were
exposed at high levels or for long periods of time, you may be at increased
risk of certain cancers or the other diseases discussed above. You can protect
your health in several ways:
If you are a smoker, it is very important that you try to stop smoking. Evidence suggests that asbestos-exposed workers who quit smoking can significantly reduce their risk of developing lung cancer.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should get regular health checkups to look for signs of asbestos-related diseases. You may want to ask about seeing a doctor experienced with asbestos-related diseases. Some doctors recommend that people with heavy asbestos exposure get regular chest x-rays or CT scans and lung function tests. These tests can’t detect asbestos fibers themselves, but they may be able to detect problems that could be caused by the fibers.
Tell your doctor if you start to have symptoms that might be related to asbestos exposure such as shortness of breath, a new or worsening cough, pain or tightness in the chest, trouble swallowing, or unintended weight loss. See your doctor promptly for any respiratory illness.
Ask your doctor about getting vaccines against flu and pneumonia. If you’ve
already been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, there are some places
you may be able to go for financial help with treatment. Some people with
asbestos-related illness may be eligible for Medicare coverage. Some people
also may qualify for help, including medical payments, under state workers’
compensation laws. Because eligibility requirements vary from state to state,
workers should contact their state workers’ compensation board. Eligible
veterans may receive health care at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center for asbestos-related diseases.
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