What is The Difference Between Mesothelioma And Lung Cancer?

Although there are a lot of similarities between mesothelioma and lung cancer, they are not the same thing and have several key differences. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma are a form of cancer, a disease that causes abnormal cells to divide uncontrollably, destroying the body’s tissue. Since both of these diseases affect the lungs, you can expect to see similar symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and pain while breathing, however, these symptoms are caused by very different things. In this article, we’re going to define both lung cancer and mesothelioma and identify some key differences to help you differentiate the two.


Pleural Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer that forms in the protective layer of the body’s organs known as the mesothelium. Although this cancer can form in many different organs of the body, mainly in the abdomen, it usually forms in the protective layer of the lungs, called the pleura. This asbestos in the lungs is known as pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma in the abdomen is called peritoneal mesothelioma.


Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. By starting in the lungs, a cancerous (malignant) tumors will grow and destroy nearby tissue. When these cells spread to other parts of the body, it’s known as metastasization. There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) begins on the outer part of the lung in glandular cells. According to the American Cancer Society, about 80 to 90 percent of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) starts around the bronchi in the middle of the lungs. There are two types of SCLC: small cell carcinoma and combined small cell carcinoma. Lung cancer that begins in other parts of the body and spreads to the lungs is not treated in the same way as primary lung cancer and is referred to as lung metastasis.


Several Key Differences


One of the main differences between lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma is prominence. Second, only to heart disease, cancer is the leading cause of death in the United States with nearly 600,000 deaths in 2012 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among those deaths, 157,423 were the result of lung cancer and only about 2,700 resulted from mesothelioma. However, mesothelioma’s prominence should not be mistaken for its deadliness. According to Asbestos.com, only about 9 percent of patients with mesothelioma live past five years — significantly lower than most other types of cancers. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 18 percent.


Due to the similar symptoms of lung cancer and mesothelioma, diagnosing them can be difficult. However, since the asbestos is known to be the main cause of mesothelioma and smoking causes 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer cases, this is often the best place for doctors to start in diagnosing either disease. Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral commonly used as a fire and heat-resistant material, mixed in with cement or woven into mats or fabric. This material can be found in older homes and may be released and inhaled when ceilings are drilled or patched. If asbestos or smoking aren’t able to sufficiently diagnose lung cancer or mesothelioma, there are several other types of tests that can be performed including:

  • Bone scans
  • Computed tomography (CT/CAT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
  • X-rays

Blood tests and biopsies can also be an effective way of diagnosing these diseases. Examining cells and how they behave or the tumor as a whole may help identify the type of cancer. “Pleural mesothelioma” forms clumps of cancerous tissue on the protective lining of the lungs while the tumors of small cell lung cancer are usually located toward the middle of the lungs on the bronchi. One similarity between both conditions is that early detection is difficult because symptoms don’t start until more advanced stages of the disease. Researchers are looking into ways to detect them sooner.

Staging Systems

The severity of both pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer is based off a staging system. Although they start in a similar way, they differ in the way that the tumors spread in the later stages. In stage one and two, tumors are localized; in stage three, they grow and spread to nearby lymph nodes; and in stage four, lung cancer spreads to other parts of the body like the liver, brain, and bones. Mesothelioma typically travels through the bloodstream to the abdomen or heart. Lung cancer forms inside the lung tissue while pleural mesothelioma forms in the protective lining around the lungs.


Similar to other types of cancers, lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy in many cases. However, since they form differently, and the tumors are different, the procedures are very different as well. Lung cancer tumors are easier to remove surgically and target with radiation therapy or chemotherapy because they grow as individual masses. On the other hand, mesothelioma tumors are much more difficult to target because they spread more erratically, making it harder to remove without damaging healthy tissue.


Fighting For Mesothelioma Victims

Needless to say, both lung cancer and mesothelioma have had a devastating impact on the United States and the world as a whole. If you have mesothelioma and you believe you were exposed to asbestos due to negligence, you may have a claim that entitles compensation. Here at Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, we understand the sensitivity of cases like this and that the last thing you want to deal with at this point is legal issues. However, you also deserve compensation for the pain and suffering you’ve endured through no fault of your own.

If you’re ready to speak with a mesothelioma attorney, call us today. If you’d like more information about mesothelioma lawsuits, visit our lawsuits page or our Frequently Asked Questions.