Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer: Spotting the Differences
A cancer diagnosis is a nightmare that lands hard on its victims, disrupting their normal flow of life to an entirely new course. One can foresee a long and tiring battle that awaits the victim, and there is no choice but to buckle up for it. It is necessary to know what type of cancer you would be combating if you wish to have a chance at taking it down. An accurate cancer diagnosis is the first step towards the journey to recovery. Imagine jumping to the wrong conclusion! It would make cancer lethal, even if its spread had been avoidable.
The cancers occurring at the same body site can have overlapping symptoms. It can lead to a misdiagnosis, especially if the cancer is rare and the oncologists do not consider it when making a diagnosis. It is the case with lung cancer and mesothelioma. Though mesothelioma may occur in other body organs, 80% of the cases involve lungs. It is also known as pleural mesothelioma. The initial symptoms of both cancers are similar, e,g., coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, etc. Therefore, there should be clarity regarding their differences to avoid any confusion. Here are some differences that would help you clarify your concepts of both cancers.
The Causes and Latency Period:
The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos fiber. Many occupations are associated with asbestos exposure, like those of industrial and power plants. Prolonged work at such high-risk sites leads to the deposition of asbestos fiber in the lungs’ pleural cavity, which slowly develops cancer over the years. Since the owners had failed to inform their workers regarding its potential risks, the victims can file a compensation claim. If the same is the case for you, consult mesothelioma lawyers and get the legal compensation that you rightly deserve. The substantial sum that you would receive would spare you from financial problems, and you would be able to focus on your treatment. So do not let this opportunity slip away.
Mesothelioma takes its time to surface. It may be after 20-50 years of asbestos exposure that you start developing the symptoms. So, even if decades have gone by, remain vigilant if you have worked at a site with asbestos risk, and do not ignore the frequently occurring Signs of Mesothelioma.
On the other hand, the causes of lung cancer are varied. It might be due to breathing in polluted air or tobacco use. Lung cancer can also develop due to asbestos exposure, but smoking does not affect mesothelioma development. The latency period of lung cancer is shorter comparatively and might take 10-30 years to develop after exposure to a carcinogen.
Though affecting the lungs, both mesothelioma and lung cancer have very different pathology. Mesothelioma occurs in the pleural membrane, i.e., outside of the lungs. The tumor consists of small nodules that attach and invade the pleural membrane without definite boundaries. The intricate network is in the form of the sheath and is interconnected. Though rapid and robust in its progress in local tissues, mesothelioma rarely spreads to other organs like the lungs, lymph nodes, or bones.
However, the same does not apply to lung cancer. It occurs in distinct masses with definite boundaries, lacking the sheath-like appearance. It is the cancer of the lung cells and so occurs within them. Unlike mesothelioma, it is notorious for invading other body parts, spreading its root to areas far from its origin.
The main challenge is the diagnosis of mesothelioma, which the oncologists often confuse with lung cancer. To diagnose it, you will need to consult its specialist, as a regular oncologist may lack the expertise to do so. Due to similar complications and symptoms, many people do not get an exact diagnosis until cancer progresses to its final stage. The diagnostic tests usually involve X-rays and CT scans of the chest cavity to look into the specific details leading to an accurate diagnosis. A biopsy can further confirm the diagnosis, which presents the main difference between mesothelioma and lung cancer. The former tends to take shape more like an adenocarcinoma, unlike the latter, which presents itself differently in the tissue biopsy results. Also, testing the patient’s sputum is another way to diagnose lung cancer.
Mesothelioma shows distinct signs of pleural thickening and pleural effusion. Pleural thickening is the chronic inflammation of the pleural membrane, causing it to increase in thickness and stiffness. As this lining continues to become thick, the lungs can not expand to their maximum capacity for inhalation, leading to shortness of breath. Pleural effusion is the excess buildup of fluid in the pleural cavity, which takes up the space of lung expansion and leads to difficulty in breathing. However, in the case of lung cancer, the thickening of the pleural membrane is usually not observed and can serve as a marker for mesothelioma diagnosis.
Choosing the right treatment option can be the most daunting task in cancer cases. The oncologist has to consider multiple factors, like the patient survival and the efficacy of the treatment option. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the main options to contain and shrink cancerous cells.
For mesothelioma, focal radiation therapy has more efficacy. It is a targeted therapy in which the patient receives an intense and precise dose of radiation, much higher than the routine radiation therapy techniques. When it comes to lung cancer, photodynamic therapy outshines the other treatment options and is more effective than it is in mesothelioma. It combines light with a photosensitizer which in this case is a drug. Upon activation by a specific wavelength of light, the photosensitizer becomes activated. This activated drug becomes toxic and destroys cancerous tissue.
Surgery is often combined with these treatments to increase the survival rate. The surgeon may remove the cancerous portion of the pleural membrane in mesothelioma patients, or in some cases, the entire lining. If cancer has progressed to the lungs, the surgeon will have to get rid of its damaged part too. Lung cancer also involves the removal of the cancerous part of the organ, which can either be a single lobe or the entire lung.
An inaccurate diagnosis can be a matter of life and death for a cancer patient. If you or your loved one faces the dilemma of being diagnosed with cancer in the lungs, do not forget to take a second opinion. Research on your part is also necessary to enlighten your mind about what is happening to your body and to discuss the intricacies of your disease with the oncologist effectively. With a clear mindset, you can surely increase your chances of survival.