What are the Stages of Asbestosis

Upon diagnosis, a physician will generally classify a case of asbestosis into one of three categories based on X-rays and other imaging that’s done on the patient’s lungs. Their classification is based on the scope of damage that asbestos exposure has created inside the person’s body.

The categories are unnamed, but there are the three stages of this disease based on details that can be observed in X-rays (Medscape):

  • First stage: A fine reticular pattern, usually at the base of the lungs; pattern may have the appearance of ground glass
  • Second stage: Irregular spots in connective tissue; pattern may obscure appearance of heart and diaphragm
  • Third stage: Coarse pattern in connective tissue; honeycomb pattern in upper areas of lung; heart and diaphragm are further obscured

Because the progression described above is open to interpretation and may be influenced by the sensitivity of X-ray equipment, many doctors will use CT scans to further refine any possible abnormalities in the lungs of people exposed to asbestos. The added specificity of these scans, combined with victims’ descriptions of their symptoms, help them more accurately classify how advanced the disease is in a particular patient.

Asbestosis is not a form of cancer, but research has suggested that some people whose asbestosis is progressive are more likely to develop lung cancer (PubMed). A study in the United Kingdom found that 46% of patients with progressive asbestosis developed lung cancer compared to just 9% of those who had asbestosis that was controlled.