Extended exposure to asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma and lung cancer, which share similar symptoms. While both are potentially fatal and affect the lungs, mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer have distinct differences.

Showard Law Firm attorneys are well-versed in health complications stemming from occupational asbestos exposure and assist individuals seeking legal reparations for their medical bills, lost wages, permanent disability and pain and suffering. Our veteran mass tort lawyers can establish liable parties and explain your eligibility for filing a mesothelioma lawsuit. To explore your options for legal recourse, we invite you to call our office for a complimentary case assessment. A skilled mesothelioma attorney will be available to discuss the unique circumstances of your injuries.

Differences between mesothelioma and lung cancer

Mesothelioma and lung cancer can both take decades to develop and have some overlapping diagnostic procedures and treatments. However, the diseases develop in different ways. Mesothelioma is a kind of cancerous growth that develops in the protective lining of the lungs, affecting the cells of the mesothelium.

Mesothelioma is caused primarily by asbestos exposure, and most typically affects the sacs encasing the lungs, known as the pleura. Although pleural mesothelioma is the key injury in asbestos litigation, there are other, less common types including pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma.

Nearly all kinds of asbestos, including serpentine and amphibole types, have been shown to cause pleural mesothelioma, which affects some 3,000 American lives annually. Unlike lung cancer’s well-defined tumorous masses, mesothelioma tumors are interconnected and thinly spread throughout healthy cells, making it harder to isolate for treatment. Mesothelioma cancer is characterized by small nodules that lack clear boundaries, which eventually join together to create a sheath-like mass in the mesothelium.

Lung cancer develops in the tissue of the lungs rather than the lining and may involve the lymph nodes as well. Most cases of lung cancer are attributed to tobacco use and environmental hazards, such as radon and asbestos exposure.  Compared to mesothelioma, lung cancer has a shorter latency period, meaning symptoms may appear faster.

The staging for mesothelioma and lung cancer is equivalent from stages 1-3, as tumors grow and spread throughout neighboring tissue and organs. Approximately 225,000 American adults are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, making it the number one cause of cancer death in the nation.

Similar diagnostic procedures

The following diagnostic procedures are frequently utilized to differentiate lung cancer from pleural mesothelioma:

  • X-Rays will expose preliminary tumor growth
  • PET or CT scan provide more detailed images of the lung tissue and lining
  • Biopsy/fluid drainage, via incision or needle, provide samples for more accurate diagnosis
  • Sputum cytology examines phlegm for cancerous growth
  • Bronchoscopy — in which a special tube is passed down the throat into the lungs for examination and potential biopsy collection

Mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer symptoms

Both mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung disease are associated with the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent respiratory infections
  • Recurrent chest pain
  • Chronic coughing/hacking
  • Coughing up blood
  • Wheezing or hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Night sweats and fevers

Asbestos-related lung cancer

Anyone with a history of asbestos exposure should have regular screenings for asbestos-related lung disease. Symptoms may present 10 to 30 years after initial exposure and often arise once the cancer is in a more advanced stage. The majority – around 85 percent – of all lung cancer cases are classified as non-small cell lung cancer, while the rest are small cell variety. Small cell lung cancer is much more aggressive and can quickly spread to other parts of the body.

Both types of lung cancer can be caused by genetics, smoking, environmental contaminants and asbestos exposure. To diagnose lung cancer as asbestos-related, doctors look for the presence of asbestosis in the patient, higher than average levels of asbestos fibers in lung tissue, and a latency period of at least 10 years from the time of initial asbestos exposure to the diagnosis date. Asbestosis is frequently seen in patients who worked in manufacturing, shipbuilding, construction and insulation installation.

Prognosis for mesothelioma and lung cancer

Early diagnosis for both types of cancer can increase survival risk. The 5-year survival rate for lung cancer is 18 percent versus 10 percent for mesothelioma. The 10-year survival rate for lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma drops to 10 percent and 4 percent.

Treatment modalities are dependent on the type of cancer and the stage at diagnosis, but usually entails radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Mesothelioma is notoriously more difficult to treat because of its diffuse boundaries that make the tumors harder to target.

Complementary therapies including gene therapy, cryotherapy and photodynamic therapy have had varying levels of success in the treatment of asbestos-related cancers. Unfortunately, the long-term prognosis for mesothelioma is quite poor.

Time limits for taking legal action

Mesothelioma litigation has been filed against defendants that knew about the risks of asbestos exposure but failed to warn employees and contract workers.

Every state has its own statute of limitations for bringing a mesothelioma lawsuit. These deadlines apply to both wrongful death and personal injury claims and can range from one to six years. Showard Law Firm extends free consultations to people who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer or mesothelioma or their next of kin. During this confidential case evaluation, we’ll assess the merits of your claim and provide sound legal guidance on the best course of action.

Additional Resources:

  1. net, Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer https://mesothelioma.net/mesothelioma-and-lung-cancer/
  2. net, Mesothelioma vs. Lung Cancer – What’s the Difference? https://lungcancer.net/living/mesothelioma-vs-lung-cancer/
  3. MesotheliomaGroup, Mesothelioma Stages https://www.mesotheliomagroup.com/mesothelioma/stages/