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Lung cancer vs. mesothelioma

By Treven Pyles

Posted on June 19th, 2017

Lung Cancer Vs Mesothelioma

Once inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers trapped in the organ tissue, trigger genetic damage, scarring, and inflammation that can lead to mesothelioma or lung cancer. Though pleural mesothelioma is often confused as lung cancer, these two diseases are distinctly different.

Occupational asbestos exposure causes two major types of cancer:

Both affect the lungs and the chest by reducing lung function and causing pain and discomfort. Each can take decades to develop, but only months to spread to distant organs. Considering that both diseases have similar symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and weight loss, additional medical investigations and getting a second opinion on mesothelioma vs. lung cancer diagnosis, can dramatically impact patient survival.

Facts you should know about lung cancer and mesothelioma

Study after study continued to show the cause-effect relationship of asbestos and the two forms of cancer. In 1986, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration proclaimed lung cancer as the greatest risk for individuals who work with asbestos.

The most deadly asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma, is the most prevalent form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure. The International Agency for Research on Cancer recently stated that the scientific evidence has strengthened over time and now there are sufficient proofs asbestos is carcinogenic to humans, regardless of the fiber type, size or amount inhaled.

Mesothelioma vs. Lung Cancer

Differences between lung cancer and mesothelioma

Although they carry some similarities in symptoms, mesothelioma and lung cancer differ in physical characteristics, they develop and spread differently and require entirely different treatment approaches.

Lung cancer generally involves cancerous tumors or masses within the lung itself, while mesothelioma develops in the protective lining of the lung, known as the pleura, which is a thin membrane between the chest wall and lung cavity. This type is called pleural mesothelioma and is the most common type of the disease, accounting for 80 - 90% of all diagnoses.

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • effusions (fluid)
  • general fatigue
  • persistent chest pain
  • persistent dry cough
  • shortness of breath
  • weight loss

Mesothelioma also develops in the lining of the heart, abdomen, and testicles.

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • abdominal pain
  • ascites (fluid)
  • bowel irregularity
  • general fatigue
  • nausea/vomiting
  • seizures

Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include:

  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • fever
  • general fatigue
  • heart murmurs
  • irregular heartbeat

After inhaling asbestos needle-like fibers, they tend to lodge in the lungs and gradually migrate into the pleural lining. Furthermore, these fibers can cause irritation, chronic inflammation and genetic changes that turn cells cancerous. In cases of asbestos-related lung cancer, the fibers become lodged in the lung tissue, which can also cause irritation and scarring that can develop into tumors over time.

Unlike mesothelioma which has only one known cause - asbestos, lung cancer has multiple possible causes. Tobacco smoking is not the only cause of this awful disease. According to LUNGevity, up to 15% of individuals diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked a cigarette. Exposure to carcinogenic agents such as asbestos is mostly responsible for this portion of lung cancer cases. In conjunction with smoking, this factor is substantially more likely to give way to lung cancer than by itself. People who have a history of asbestos exposure and were or are also smokers are 50 to 90 times more susceptible to lung cancer than non-smokers with asbestos fibers in their bodies.

More key facts and figures about lung cancer vs. mesothelioma

  • Lung cancer due to asbestos exposure results in 4,800 deaths per year
  • About 45,000 deaths due to mesothelioma from 1999 to 2016 in the U.S.
  • Tobacco use is considered to determine 80% of all lung cancer deaths.
  • About 12% of lung cancer deaths are radon-related.
  • Lung cancer appears around 10 - 30 years after first exposure to a carcinogen like asbestos or cigarette smoke.
  • Mesothelioma takes around 20 - 50 years to develop after the initial exposure to asbestos fibers.
  • Lung cancer had a tendency to grow in individual masses which have defined boundaries.
  • Mesothelioma first presents tiny tumor nodules that are scattered in the mesothelial lining, and will eventually grow together forming a sheath-like mass.
  • Mesothelioma is solely the result of asbestos exposure.
  • The majority of lung cancer cases are attributed to smoking and second-hand smoke and environmental exposures to radon gas.
  • Smoking does not influence the risk of mesothelioma.
  • Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
  • When smoking and asbestos are combined, the risk of developing lung cancer increases at least 50 times.

Pleural mesothelioma often confused with several types of lung cancer

General oncologists typically see only a few cases of mesothelioma through the course of a career, so they are not likely to recognize the differences between mesothelioma and lung cancer signs, symptoms and test results.

There are two main classifications of lung cancer and they are treated very differently:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

To ensure the accuracy of the diagnosis, seeking a second opinion from an experienced mesothelioma specialist as soon as possible is often vital.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a fast-growing tumor with a high mortality rate and overall survival of less than 1 year. While surgery offers the greatest chance of long-term survival for both mesothelioma and lung cancer, pleural mesothelioma is more aggressive and may require specific supplemental treatment.

Asbestos trusts use disease levels in order to ensure that the limited pool of money in the trust is paid out fairly. The most severe asbestos-related conditions usually receive the highest compensation. Mesothelioma is rated the highest at level 8.

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer and you have a well-traced history with relevance in asbestos exposure, a second opinion from a doctor who specializes in mesothelioma could ultimately lead you to the best treatment options and might just save your life, but it will also ensure the maximum amount of compensation you deserve.

Compensation for lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma from asbestos exposure

Many people get diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer because of being victims of exposure to asbestos. If you or a loved one has been affected by asbestos, you may be eligible for compensation. In order to pursue full and fair compensation, you need an experienced asbestos attorney to guide you and represent you through the legal process.

Attorneys at Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. have handled over 133,000 asbestos exposure claims throughout the U.S. being widely recognized for their diligent and successful representations.