Are Asbestosis & Mesothelioma the Same?November 12, 2019
No, asbestosis and mesothelioma are two different conditions that can both result from asbestos exposure:
- Asbestosis is a chronic, non-cancerous lung condition.
- Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that can affect the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and/or heart.
As a result, each condition can have distinct symptoms, treatments, and prognoses, as detailed below.
Asbestosis & Mesothelioma: The Symptoms
Since asbestosis and mesothelioma can both impact the lungs, they can share some symptoms. There are, however, certain symptoms unique to each condition. This table provides a snapshot of the most common symptoms associated with asbestosis and mesothelioma.
|Asbestosis Symptoms||Mesothelioma Symptoms|
|Shortness of breath|
A dry, persisting cough
Clubbing of the digits
|Shortness of breath|
For both conditions, it usually takes years after asbestos exposure for the condition to develop and start presenting symptoms. Specifically, it generally takes about:
- 10 to 40 years following asbestos exposure for the asbestosis symptoms to develop
- 20 to 50 years following asbestos exposure for the mesothelioma symptoms to develop
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Asbestosis & Mesothelioma: The Diagnosis
During the diagnostic process, doctors will usually focus on ruling out other conditions to determine whether a patient has asbestosis or mesothelioma.
To diagnose asbestosis, doctors typically perform:
- Imaging tests, like x-rays and computerized tomography (CT) tests
- Lung function tests to evaluate the strength of your lungs
For a mesothelioma diagnosis, doctors may perform the above tests, as well as:
- Biopsies to confirm whether tissues are cancerous
- More advanced imaging tests, like positron emission tomography (PET), to determine if the condition has spread to other areas of the body.
While an asbestosis diagnosis simply confirms the presence of the condition, a mesothelioma diagnosis will both:
- Confirm the presence of this type of cancer
- Stage the condition, describing how far the condition has advanced.
Asbestosis & Mesothelioma: The Treatments & Prognoses
Treatments for asbestosis and mesothelioma may both involve surgery to remove damaged or malignant cells. Aside from—or beyond surgery, the treatments for these conditions are usually different:
- Asbestosis treatments can also include oxygen therapy to support breathing and, in the most severe cases, lung transplants.
- Mesothelioma treatments can also involve chemotherapy and/or radiation to shrink cancerous cells and prevent them from spreading. Palliative care to alleviate symptoms, as well as targeted therapies through clinical trials, can also be part of mesothelioma treatments.
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