Asbestos is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of many homeowners since this naturally occurring mineral is a carcinogen

Before the dangers of asbestos were widely known, manufacturers used it to make everything from attic insulation to vinyl flooring. So, if your home is 30 years old or older, it may have materials with asbestos. If these materials are disturbed, asbestos fibers can dislodge, become airborne, and enter people’s lungs. Over time, exposure can lead to mesothelioma. It’s a rare and aggressive type of cancer — and the prognosis after diagnosis isn’t promising.

The good news is you’re likely not in danger if you leave the potentially tainted materials alone. But if a home renovation project has you ripping out insulation from behind the walls or removing floor tiles, you could be exposed to asbestos.

What should you do if you fear exposure to this carcinogen? Even a one-time exposure can, if the asbestos gets into your lungs, cause severe problems down the road. Multiple exposures will increase your odds of serious health complications. 

With that said, here are three things to do if you fear possible asbestos exposure

1. Make an Appointment to See Your Doctor

The first thing to do is make an appointment to see your family doctor. Disclose to your doctor that you believe you were exposed to asbestos. After explaining the reasons for your concern, your doctor can determine whether or not exposure was likely and what steps to take. It can take decades between exposure to asbestos to symptoms and from symptoms to mesothelioma. 

One reason the life-expectancy rate post-diagnosis is so low is that diagnosis usually doesn’t occur until after the cancer has reached an advanced stage. That limits effective treatment options. So, seeing your doctor is vital since medical professionals can detect problems early. And an early diagnosis can increase treatment options and recovery rates substantially.

2. Get Screening Tests

If your doctor believes asbestos exposure is probable, they will schedule screening tests. The tests will help determine whether you’ve been affected, what illnesses you’re at risk for, and what treatments are appropriate. Again, early diagnosis provides the best odds of successful treatment. So, get the screening tests done ASAP. A good doctor will schedule them immediately to ensure you get the care you need if exposed to asbestos.

Your doctor will tell you to watch for possible mesothelioma symptoms, which include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and unexplained weight loss. If any symptoms pop up, you’ll want to follow up with your doctor to see what steps to take next.

3. Get Your Home Checked Out

If you suspect materials in your home have asbestos, your best bet is to leave it alone. Asbestos will typically only be a problem if you disturb the materials and send fibers airborne. But what if you need to get work done? Hire a professional contractor. You may need an asbestos expert to test the suspected materials. Doing so can help to rectify the problem if there is one or allow you to breathe a sigh of relief if your worst fears are proven baseless.

You likely have nothing to worry about if your home was built after the asbestos ban in the U.S. In that case, the builders likely didn’t use materials containing asbestos.

Remember that asbestos exposure is something to take seriously. So, if you suspect exposure, don’t drag your feet. You need to act as soon as possible. Get in touch with your doctor, go in for screening tests, and get your home checked for possible asbestos risks