Pleural Mesothelioma versus Lung Cancer, Common Similarities and Differences

Pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer are actually different cancers which are caused by the exposure to asbestos. These cancers basically originate in various locations in the body, but cause the same symptoms such as difficulty breathing and chest pain. Similar tools are used to diagnose the cancers, yet the treatment schemes are different.

Once asbestos has been inhaled, it can get lodged in the lung tissues or right in the lining of the lungs, which are known as the pleural lining, and can trigger cancer in both of these areas. Asbestos that is lodged in lung tissue can cause lung cancer, while asbestos which is ingested in the pleural lining causes pleural mesothelioma.Pleural mesothelioma is not seen as a form of lung cancer since it does not originate in the lung tissue. But, pleural mesothelioma is sometimes misdiagnosed as lung cancer, most generally adenocarcinoma or the rare form known as the pseudomesotheliomatous lung cancer.Even though surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are used to treat both of these cancers, the types of chemotherapy drugs, surgeries, and radiation therapy plans are different. The prognosis for pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer is actually comparable for the first year after the diagnosis. However, lung cancer patients appear to have better survival rates and longer prognosis.

Pleural Mesothelioma vs. Lung Cancer

These entirely different cancers form in various tissues which are so close in proximity. As a corollary, these cancers can cause similar symptoms which affect the pulmonary health. The shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, and weigh loss are the main symptoms. These particular symptoms tend to come late in the development of these cancers.


The diagnostic process is much the same for pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer. X-ray is often the first test to reveal the growth of tumor around the lungs. Advanced imaging tests such as PET or CT scans provide more detailed results of the inside picture of lungs and chest. The samples of cancerous tissues which are called biopsies are important to diagnose the cancers more accurately. The main difference in the diagnostic process is the use of sputum cytology test, which is meant to phlegm expelled by patient if lung cancer is detected.

These are some of the similarities in staging, yet tumor usually spread at the later stage, stage 4, for these types of cancer. Stage one and two are localized for both cancers, which means that tumors will remain where they have grown and reached the local lymph nodes. By stage 4, lung cancers are advanced locally, which means that they have grown and reached some local nodes. By the last stage, which is stage IV, the cancer is spread to the other parts of the body, such as the bones, brains, the other lung, and adrenal glands. On the other hand, Stage IV pleural mesothelioma rarely spread to distant areas, but may also spread to the other lungs, bones, or brains.  Both types of cancer are treated with radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery-but precise treatment schemes are different for every patient.

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