What's the Difference Between Mesothelioma and Asbestos Lung Cancer?
You may assume that mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer are interchangeable terms. But while both are caused by asbestos exposure, these two conditions are different types of cancers, with different symptoms and prognoses. Below, we'll discuss some of the differences between mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer, what causes each, and how The Ferraro Law Firm can help you protect and preserve your legal rights after developing asbestos-related cancer.
Mesothelioma vs. Lung Cancer: What's the Difference?
Both mesothelioma and lung cancer can be caused by long-term or occupational asbestos exposure. However, mesothelioma refers to cancer that develops in the mesothelium—the membrane lining the lung. Other organs have mesothelium as well, and mesothelioma can also form in the lining of the stomach, heart, or testes. Mesothelium tumors are very small and eventually form a mass that envelops the lung.
Asbestos lung cancer forms inside the lung, in larger masses that can spread to other parts of the body. Often, lung cancer spreads through the lymph nodes before it grows large enough to cause any symptoms, which is one reason this type of cancer can be so deadly—it often goes undetected until it's at an advanced stage.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that's caused only by asbestos exposure. Surprisingly, smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke doesn't increase your risk of developing mesothelioma.
However, lung cancer can be caused by asbestos exposure and/or other environmental factors (like tobacco smoke, heavy pollution, and radon). Those who have been exposed to asbestos and also smoke can be at a significantly higher risk of lung cancer than those who don't smoke.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The symptoms of mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer can be very similar. They include:
A chronic dry cough
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Loss of appetite
If you have any of these symptoms and have a history of asbestos exposure (or smoking), it's important to see a doctor as soon as you can for a full chest workup. Your doctor may order a chest CT scan, a needle biopsy (which removes cells so that they can be tested for cancer), a chest X-ray, blood work, or other tests to see whether anything is out of the ordinary.
For those who have been exposed to asbestos and don't have the above symptoms, regular lung cancer screenings can catch any problems quickly, allowing for easier treatment and a better prognosis.
Treatment Options and Prognosis
If diagnosed early, mesothelioma and lung cancer can be treated through some or all of the following methods:
Surgical excision of the tumor(s) or the affected portion of the lung
Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
Radiation to slow tumor growth and spread
Cryotherapy to remove cancer cells
Targeted gene therapy to turn certain cells on (or off) and stop cancer cells from spreading
However, if these cancers aren't diagnosed until they've spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, surgery may no longer be the best way to rid your body of tumors. Treatment may instead focus on slowing tumor growth, reducing pain, and maintaining your quality of life.
What Causes Asbestos-Related Lung Cancers?
Both mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer can be caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos was a popular insulation and construction material for decades because of its heat resistance and flame-retardant properties. Unfortunately, the silica fibers that make asbestos so flame-retardant can also cause severe lung scarring when they're inhaled. Over time, these fibers degrade the cells in the lung walls and mesothelium enough to cause permanent DNA damage, which can lead to uncontrolled tumor growth.
Those who work in certain industries that use asbestos-containing materials are at increased risk of developing asbestos-related lung cancers. Although asbestos hasn't been used in homes since the 1970s, older homes, older buildings, and certain manufacturing facilities still allow workers to come into contact with asbestos fibers.
Some of the workers who may need to be screened for lung damage include:
Armed forces veterans
Mining and manufacturing workers
In addition, those who plan to remodel or renovate a house built in the 1970s or earlier (when asbestos was still used) should test any floor tiles, siding, shingles, or insulation for asbestos before demolishing these materials. Asbestos can be safely removed from your home, but it's not a DIY job—trained asbestos professionals know how to remove asbestos without exposing themselves or others to harmful airborne fibers.
What Are Your Legal Options After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
Because most mesothelioma diagnoses are the result of occupational-related asbestos exposure, it's important for patients and their loved ones to seek legal advice as soon as possible. You may be able to recover damages against your employer or former employer to help compensate you for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the other harm you've experienced as a result of your diagnosis.
Not all lung cancers can be attributed to asbestos, which can make liability harder to prove. For example, if you smoked or were exposed to secondhand smoke and were exposed to asbestos, your former employer may argue that it was the smoking—not the asbestos exposure—that caused your cancer. An experienced asbestos attorney like the Ferraro Law Firm can investigate your claim and assess your legal options.
And because the Ferraro Law Firm doesn't charge a fee unless you recover damages in your case, there's little risk in moving forward with a claim. The last thing you want to worry about when fighting cancer is how you're going to pay bills—by partnering with an experienced asbestos attorney, you'll be able to rest assured that your claim is being vigorously litigated by someone who can fight for your best interests.
Our Asbestos Lawyers Can Help You Fight Back
The Ferraro Law Firm has helped injured workers and consumers stand up to employers and large corporations for decades. Though there are federal regulations intended to prevent workers from being exposed to asbestos, many unscrupulous employers simply don't follow them—or opt to pay a fine instead of taking steps to improve worker safety.
Manufacturing companies, construction firms, and other employers often try to hide behind their legal teams when injured employees fight back after being exposed to asbestos. Not all law firms have the skills and resources that it takes to challenge these companies, but The Ferraro Law Firm does.
Over the last three decades, our asbestos attorneys have helped many mesothelioma and lung cancer sufferers (and their loved ones) seek justice against the major U.S. companies that have allowed their employees to be exposed to asbestos without proper protective equipment. Contact our asbestos lawyers today for a free legal consultation. Our services are free unless you win your case.