Oat Cell Carcinoma and Asbestos
Oat cell carcinoma is the most common subtype of small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Sometimes SCLC can be referred to as “oat-cell” because of how the cells look under a microscope. This disease can be caused by prolonged exposure to a mineral known as asbestos.
What Is Oat Cell Carcinoma?
Different types of cancer are usually named based on the characteristics and location of the tumors. Oat cell carcinoma (OCC) is a subtype of lung cancer that usually begins in the bronchi and quickly spreads to other areas. There are two primary types of lung cancer: small cell (SCLC) and non-small cell (NSCLC). These are also called small cell and non-small cell lung carcinomas.
Oat cell carcinoma is the most common subtype of small cell lung carcinoma. Researchers named the disease “oat cell” because the cells appear small and flat under a microscope, like oats. Sometimes oat cell carcinoma can be mistaken for pleural mesothelioma, another type of cancer that affects the lungs. OCC accounts for approximately 20 percent of lung carcinomas.
The Link to Oat Cell Carcinoma From Asbestos
The lungs inhale several harmful particles that can eventually cause adverse health effects. One toxic mineral in particular that can be easily inhaled, is called asbestos. It was once widely used in the construction of buildings, tools, insulation products, and other machinery due to its strength, durability, and resistance to fire.
The mineral is especially dangerous when it’s in a friable state (crumbled or powdery). When asbestos is friable (primarily during construction, renovation, and demolition projects) it’s harmful fibers can become airborne. When this happens, nearby workers and residents are more likely to inhale or swallow dangerous amounts. If workers or residents inhale too much asbestos, eventually fibers get lodged inside the lungs (or other areas of the body, but the lungs are the most common). When fibers are inside the body, they tend to scratch, irritate, and damage the area’s tissues. After so many years of this damage, malignant tumors can develop.
It wasn’t until the late 1970s when researchers officially classified asbestos as a carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), after almost a century of use in many different industries and capacities. This is when government organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began putting laws and regulations to ban future use of the mineral. These regulations dictated all handling of asbestos, including efficient removal.
Accountability is placed in the hands of building owners, managers, or contractors to adequately remove the toxin (with a certified asbestos removal company) from all contaminated structures before any construction, demolition, or renovation projects can take place. These laws also heavily enforce proper notification of said projects to the appropriate local authorities. The consequences of breaking these rules can include prison time and/or hefty fines. Each state has its own set of regulations regarding asbestos and other harmful toxins that the public can be exposed to. Still, these are in addition to the national regulations that everyone must follow.
Who Does This Affect?
There are multiple occupations at risk for harmful levels of exposure to asbestos. The U.S. military also utilized the mineral in constructing military vehicles, barracks, tools, and weapons. Other at-risk industries include:
- Aviation/ Air Force
- Chemical (plants, factories)
- Construction and demolition
- Mining and milling
- Renovators and maintenance crews, (roofers, drywallers, painters, plumbers)
- Shipbuilding and the Navy
These are only a few industries and occupations at risk for dangerous levels of exposure to asbestos.
Stages and Symptoms
Depending on your stage of oat cell carcinoma, symptoms will vary in severity or occurrence. Some symptoms may not show up at all because everything varies from person to person. After you start noticing signs, you can go to a doctor for an official diagnosis or assessment of the disease. The doctor will perform a series of screenings and tests and send the results to a lab where researchers can fully determine the extent or presence of illness.
There are two stages for small cell lung cancer (oat cell):
Tumors are only present in one lung and potentially in nearby lymph nodes on the same side of the chest.
The disease has spread to the second lung, lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest, and/or distant organs.
When you start noticing symptoms, go to a doctor. They’ll evaluate, tell you what stage of the disease you’re in, and suggest treatment methods.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Once you go to the doctor with your concerns, they’ll perform a series of tests and send them to a lab where researchers can fully determine the extent or presence of oat cell carcinoma or other illness. Some tests the doctor can perform on a patient for diagnosis include imaging tests (MRI, CT scan, PET scan, Bone scan) and tissue sampling.
When the doctor retrieves all the necessary information, they’ll start developing a treatment plan. The doctor can decide on one or multiple treatments. These include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, targeted treatments, and immunotherapy. If the disease stage is too advanced, the doctor may recommend palliative care (symptom and pain management) instead of curative.
Those who’ve been negligently exposed to asbestos and develop oat cell carcinoma or other illness could have cause for legal action. An experienced attorney can put together all of the pertinent information and let you know if you should file a claim. With this, you could receive financial compensation from the asbestos company (or people) responsible for your disease.