When people think about asbestos exposure and how it affects them, one of the common diseases that comes up is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a disease that affects the lungs, and it is a type of cancer. However, this is not the same as saying that a person has lung cancer, which varies pathologically.
Lung cancer and mesothelioma develop in different ways, look different and produce varied test results on biopsies. Lung cancer is located within the lungs, while mesothelioma is located in the pleural lining of the lungs. There are additional differences to consider as well, such as the fact that mesothelioma develops into an interconnected line of tumors without boundaries. Lung cancer has clear boundaries and comes in specific, distinct masses.
Are there similarities between mesothelioma and lung cancer?
There are some similarities between mesothelioma and lung cancer. For example, both can be caused by exposure to asbestos. Both are staged from stages one to three differently, but staging from stage four is where variances begin. Lung cancer spreads throughout the body, for example, but mesothelioma generally stays in the local region.
In both cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer, exposure to the cause of the disease could be as long as 40 years ago.
How are these diseases diagnosed?
Mesothelioma and lung cancer can both be identified on X-rays, with computerized tomography scans and with PET scans. If tissue biopsies are taken, there will be distinct differences in the tissues with mesothelioma compared to cancer. Lung cancer can also be identified based on the person’s phlegm, while mesothelioma cannot.
How are these diseases treated?
The treatments are similar, with radiation, surgery and chemotherapy as major options.
Are the symptoms of mesothelioma and lung cancer similar?
Yes, they are. Someone with lung cancer or mesothelioma may have symptoms such as shortness of breath, weight changes, fatigue or others.
Both of these conditions can be a result of working with or around asbestos. If you develop mesothelioma or lung cancer, it is important to find out the cause when possible and to seek immediate treatment for the best chances of a successful recovery.