Is Your Asbestos Lung Cancer Mesothelioma?

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Lung cancer and mesothelioma are types of cancer that affect the chest and lungs. Symptoms are similar: chest pain, trouble breathing, and cough. But asbestos lung cancer affects the interior of the lungs, while mesothelioma affects the surface or lining of the lungs.

It is critical to note that most lung cancers are NOT caused by asbestos exposure; they usually are due to smoking, secondhand smoke, and other environmental factors. A small percentage of lung cancers are caused by asbestos exposure, while mesothelioma is nearly always caused by exposure to the dangerous carcinogen asbestos.

Asbestos Lung Cancer vs. Mesothelioma

Lung cancer and mesothelioma can develop after being exposed to asbestos. But they occur in different parts of the body. Asbestos lung cancer occurs in the lungs and mesothelioma occurs on the lining of the lungs and in the chest wall. Mesothelioma also is common in the abdomen; this is referred to as peritoneal mesothelioma while in the lungs it is called pleural mesothelioma. (

The cancers are similar in that they are caused by asbestos exposure but they grow differently. Lung cancer usually grows in tumors with defined boundaries. Mesothelioma begins as tiny tumor nodules that are sprinkled in the lung lining. Over time, they grow together and encase the lung. (

Asbestos lung cancer usually spreads to other organs, while mesothelioma tends to grow locally in the chest or abdominal cavity.

Another big difference between the cancers is the incidence rate. Lung cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in the United States with 222,500 new cases annually; a small percentage of these are caused by asbestos exposure. There are only 2,800 cases of mesothelioma but it is a highly aggressive cancer and has a high mortality rate. (

Facts About Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma

  • Approximately 80% of mesothelioma cases are from asbestos exposure.
  • Mesothelioma can take 20 to 50 years to develop.
  • 90% of lung cancers are caused by tobacco use.
  • Radon exposure also can cause lung cancer
  • Lung cancer has a shorter latency period of 10 to 30 years, whether the exposure is to smoking or asbestos.

How Asbestos Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Are Similar

Death rates for asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma tend to correlate with one another. The top five states with the most lung cancer deaths also have the most mesothelioma deaths: California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York.

It is easy for doctors to confuse lung cancer and mesothelioma. They both cause chest pain, difficulty breathing, fatigue, weight loss, and coughing. If you have these symptoms and have a history of asbestos exposure, your doctor should check you for asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma.

How Asbestos Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Are Diagnosed

Whether it is asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma, a biopsy is needed to diagnose it. The appearance of cancer on an X-ray, CT scan, or PET scan is not enough to tell the difference between lung cancer and mesothelioma. A biopsy on your suspected cancer can be done with a needle biopsy, bronchoscopy, or thoracoscopic operation.

With a bronchoscopy, the surgeon will put a small camera down your throat to examine the lungs to look for tumors. If there is any unusual growth, he may get a cell sample and check it for cancer.

A biopsy with a needle involves putting a tiny needle in a tumor and using a CT scan or ultrasound to find it. You will get local anesthesia with this biopsy.

To get a bigger sample, you will need to undergo general anesthesia. A tiny camera is placed between your ribs to look at the chest wall and get fluid samples. Any fluid that has built up may be suctioned out. A pleurodesis may be done to reduce the chance of fluid building up again.  This procedure involves putting a talc-like substance between the chest wall and lung so fluid cannot gather there.

A patient with pleural mesothelioma often shows pleural thickening or pleural effusion. The fluid can be checked for cancer, but this will not provide a definite diagnosis.

If you have asbestos lung cancer, you may not have pleural thickening. But a lung cancer patient can have fluid buildup in the chest cavity. This can make it harder to distinguish between asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma.

How The Cancers Are Treated

For asbestos cancer and mesothelioma, the treatment options depend on the spread of cancer. Most treatment options for both cancers involve a mixture of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Some patients may have too advanced cancer to have surgery. In these cases, chemotherapy is often used alone. (

To treat pleural mesothelioma, the surgeon may take out the lung lining. Or, he may take out the affected part of the lung, or even the entire lung and lining.

For asbestos lung cancer, the surgeon may remove part of the lung or the entire organ.

For both cancers, chemo and radiation are often used. If the asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma is localized one or both treatments can reduce the size of tumors and kill all tumor cells. These treatments may, if possible, be combined with surgery if the patient is strong enough.

There also are experimental therapies being tested for lung cancer caused by asbestos and mesothelioma. Ask your doctor about these, including immunotherapy, gene therapy, cryotherapy, and photodynamic therapy.

Whether you have asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma, it is critical to see your doctor as soon as possible and get a proper diagnosis. The cancer you have will be treated differently depending on the type of mesothelioma and the stage of mesothelioma.

It also is important to keep your doctor informed of any asbestos exposure you had in your life. The sooner your cancer is diagnosed, the more treatments available, and the better your prognosis.

Get Mesothelioma Legal Help

With over $30 billion available for victims through the Asbestos Trust Funds, you could be entitled to financial compensations without ever filing a lawsuit. Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer victims qualify immediately. Complete the form or call us toll-free (800) 352-0871.