Mesothelioma and lung cancer- is it the same thing?
You may have heard the word mesothelioma and have not been sure exactly what it is. It is a rare form of cancer that is nearly always caused by asbestos. But lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos and sometimes these illnesses may be confused with each other by the average person.
Each year, thousands of people are diagnosed with illnesses caused by asbestos exposure including mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. But these are all very different illnesses and yet all are very serious.
In 12 part campaign to expose asbestos myths, we’ll reveal the differences between lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Myth – Mesothelioma is the same thing as lung cancer.
Fact – It’s true that mesothelioma is also a cancer and it often occurs on and near the lungs, but it is not the same disease as lung cancer. It is as just as serious, or more serious, than lung cancer and carries a poor prognosis rate.
Fact – Rather than beginning and progressing in the organ itself, as lung cancer does, mesothelioma begins in the lining of certain areas of the body. The tissue where asbestos fibers are trapped and mesothelioma cancer forms is called the mesothelium.
Fact – Unlike lung cancer, mesothelioma can occur in other areas of the body including the abdominal cavity, testicles and the heart. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma can spread to other areas of the body – this is called metastasis.
Fact – There are four types of mesothelioma – pleural, in the chest – peritoneal, in the abdomen – pericardial, around the heart – mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis, in the covering layer of the testicles.
Fact – Most cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking, but non-smokers can also get it via asbestos exposure or a genetic predisposition to the disease. Smoking combined with asbestos exposure dramatically increases the risk of lung cancer.
Fact – Unlike lung cancer with its various causes, mesothelioma is caused, in most every case, by asbestos exposure. In almost every case of lung cancer caused by asbestos, smoking was also a contributing factor to the development of the disease.
Fact – There are roughly 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year and more than 220,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed. Approximately 159,000 people die each year from lung cancer and of these, an estimated 4,800 deaths were associated with asbestos exposure.
Fact – While 90% of lung cancers are caused by smoking, 90% (or more) of mesotheliomas are caused by asbestos. Both types of asbestos-related cancers are rare – just 4% of lung cancer is caused by asbestos. Asbestos cancers account for more than half of all occupational cancers.
Fact – Both mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer take decades to develop, are often diagnosed only in late stages and spread rapidly to other organs once the cancer fully develops. Because they are both diagnosed most often in late stages, the prognosis can be equally poor and similar treatments are used.
Fact – Risk for lung cancer increases as much as 4% from each additional year exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma, on the other hand, can be caused by even short periods of asbestos exposure and can even be caused by second-hand exposure to asbestos.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, Bergman Draper Oslund can help. We’ve been fighting for the rights of asbestos victims since we were founded in 1995 and asbestos cases are all we do. We have extensive research files on locations of occupational asbestos exposure and can help you get the answers you need.