If you worked in an industry that was known for high asbestos exposure risk, a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer may not take you completely by surprise. But many people who are diagnosed with one of these diseases are blindsided because they may have only worked in a high-risk industry for a short time or may have never worked in a job that you thought would have exposed you to asbestos. And while both lung cancer and mesothelioma can be caused by asbestos, they are two different and distinct diseases.
Here are five facts you should know about these illnesses:
#1 Mesothelioma and lung cancer are entirely different diseases
You may assume the terms are synonymous but in fact they are quite different. Even when cancer and mesothelioma are both associated with the lungs, they are very different diseases. Lung cancer caused by asbestos develops in the lung itself. Mesothelioma of the lungs (also called pleural mesothelioma) is cancer in the lining of the lungs.
#2 Smoking creates a higher risk for lung cancer than pleural mesothelioma
Of course smoking increases the risk of lung cancer even without asbestos exposure. But if you’ve been exposed to the toxic fiber, smoking can greatly increase the risk of lung cancer. When it comes to mesothelioma smoking doesn’t necessarily increase the risk of developing the disease. When you combine asbestos exposure with smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer increases by a factor of 50.
#3 Mesothelioma is tied more closely to asbestos than is lung cancer
The majority of mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure and it is an illness that gestates over an extremely long period of time. After exposure, it can be between 20 and 50 years (or more) before the disease is diagnosed. On the other end of the spectrum is lung cancer which counts asbestos as responsible for less than 4% of cases and can have a much shorter gestation period of 10 to 20 years.
#4 Amount of asbestos exposure is tied to the risk of each disease
Mesothelioma is more likely to be caused with lesser amounts of asbestos exposure while research shows it takes significantly more asbestos exposure to cause lung cancer. Genetics may play a role in susceptibility to mesothelioma with lower asbestos exposure compared to lung cancer. Because it takes so long for asbestos-caused diseases to gestate, it can be difficult to determine the origin.
#5 Mesothelioma has a lower long-term survival rate than lung cancer
When you compare survival rates at one year from diagnosis, the two asbestos-caused diseases have similar outcomes at around 40%. But the longer the time after diagnosis, the poorer the outcome is for mesothelioma patients. After five years, roughly 16% of lung cancer victims will survive while it drops to 10% or less for mesothelioma sufferers. In either case the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome.
If you have been a victim of mesothelioma, contact us for help
Bergman Draper Oslund has been exclusively helping victims of asbestos exposure for more than 15 years. We are the only law firm in the Pacific Northwest that focuses strictly on mesothelioma cases and have won more than $700 million in settlements for our clients. We’re ready to help you too. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call us for an immediate free consultation about a claim for compensation for your asbestos exposure.