Lung cancer is a common type of cancer that kills more and more people each year. According to the American Cancer Society, each year, about 230,000 cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in the US.
Mesothelioma is also another type of cancer. Unlike lung cancer, cases of mesothelioma are rare. Only about 3000 cases are diagnosed each year in the US.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that affects the cells in the mesothelium lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) and abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma). However, it could also affect the heart’s lining or the testes.
The mesothelium is the lining that protects your internal organs. The lining comprises two parts; one surrounds your internal organs, and the other acts as a protective sac for both the thoracic and peritoneal organs.
The most common mesothelioma is the one that affects the lining of the lungs and the thoracic cavity. Mesothelioma is also most common in White people compared to Black and other people of color according to the CDC.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Since mesothelioma affects different body parts, symptoms may vary between each patient and across all types. By identifying the exact location and the type of symptom, doctors can make the right diagnosis. Patients can also benefit from early treatment and possibly save their life.
Symptoms for Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, and symptoms always manifest in the form of thoracic and respiratory problems. The symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Prolonged dry cough or wheezing
- Shortness of breath from time to time
- Pleural effusion
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Loss of appetite
- Fever and night sweats
- Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
- Body aches
- Unexplained blood clotting disorders
Most patients get misdiagnosed since pleural mesothelioma symptoms are similar to those that appear in lung cancer, bronchitis, pneumonia, and flu.
Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdomen, so most symptoms will manifest from the abdomen region with around 700 cases reported each year. Since there are many major organs within the abdomen region, the patient’s symptoms will vary depending on the location of cancer. The common symptoms include:
- Abdominal bloating (distention)
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Peritoneal effusion
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexpected weight loss
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Fever and night sweats
- Bowel obstruction
Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma
Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for only 5% of mesothelioma cases. Cancer affects the lining of the heart. Pericardial mesothelioma has a very low life expectancy, with patients only having six months to live after diagnosis.
The symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Pericardial effusion
- Heart murmur
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- High fever and night sweats
Most patients with pericardial mesothelioma get misdiagnosed as cardiac problems
Symptoms of Testicular Mesothelioma
Testicular mesothelioma affects the lining of the testes and is among the most rare types of mesothelioma with only about 289 cases having ever been reported. The symptoms include:
- Fluid build-up
- Swelling around the scrotum (hydrocele)
- Testicular pain
- Inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis)
- Lump in the scrotum
What Is Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins from the lungs. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths compared to other types of cancer. Smokers are mostly at risk of getting lung cancer. However, nonsmokers can also get the disease.
The right side of your lung consists of three sections, while the last part is made up of two. When you breathe in, air moves from your nose and mouth through the tracheas, then to the bronchi in the lungs, and finally, the alveoli, which are tiny air sacs.
The air sacs absorb oxygen from your blood and release carbon dioxide, expelled when you exhale.
Lung cancer begins from the bronchi cells and spreads through to the alveoli. Cancer can begin from your lungs(primary) or spread from other body parts and into your lungs(secondary).
Primary cancers are many, and they are in two different groups:
- Small cell lung cancer
- Non-small cell lung cancer
Between 10 to 15% of all cancer patients are diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. On the other hand, 85% of lung cancers in the US are non-small cell lung cancer as one study suuggests.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Patients with lung cancer typically don’t show any signs, especially during the early stages. Symptoms manifest during the advanced stages. The symptoms include:
- Persistent cough
- Chest pain
- Bone pain
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Unexpected weight loss
Can Mesothelioma Cause Lung Cancer?
Mesothelioma can in fact cause lung cancer. However, the number one cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos fibers. While the leading cause of lung cancer is smoking, asbestos exposure can also cause lung cancer.
One study shows that occupational asbestos exposure is the number one cause of lung cancer. The study further shows that 6,000 people die each year due to cancer caused by asbestos.
Smokers exposed to asbestos have a higher chance of getting lung cancer than those not exposed because smoking inhibits the lung’s ability to get rid of asbestos from the body.
Mesothelioma Vs Lung Cancer: How to Tell the Difference
Even though both mesothelioma and lung cancer can be caused by asbestos exposure, they occur in different parts of the body. Here’s a breakdown of the main differences between the two diseases:
Most mesothelioma cases are due to asbestos exposure, while most cases of lung cancer are due to tobacco smoking or environmental exposure. Even though smoking doesn’t cause an increased risk of getting mesothelioma, it increases the risk of getting lung cancer.
Asbestos related lung cancer can be caused when asbestos fibers attach inside the lungs instead of the lining of the lungs or mesothelial cells.
The latency period is between exposure to asbestos and the onset of symptoms. The reason why there are too many misdiagnoses is that mesothelioma has a long latency period.
Most mesothelioma patients experience between 13 and 70 years latency period. Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are between 60 to 70 years old and were previously exposed to asbestos. Patients exposed to asbestos for long periods have a short latency period.
The median latency period for lung cancer is 54 years.
Doctors use imaging to see and describe the stages of lung cancer. Since most lung cases are non-small-cell-lung-cancer (NSCLC), the numbered stages are commonly used in NSCLC. Medical professionals use the TNM criteria to describe each stage.
The stages describe how big the tumor is and how far it has spread.
- Occult stages- Cancer cells can be seen from your mucus and saliva when you cough. However, the tumor cannot be detected with imaging or biopsy.
- Stage 0- At this point, the tumor is very small, and the cancer cells haven’t spread deeper in your lungs.
- Stage I-The cancer cells have reached your lungs but are not in the lymph nodes.
- Stage II – the cancer cells have begun spreading to your lymph nodes
- Stage III – your lymph nodes are already affected, and the cells have now spread to your chest cavity.
- Stage IV – then cancer cells have now affected your lung tissue and have begun spreading to other body organs, including your brain.
Mesothelioma tumors do not influence the symptoms. Many diagnoses occur at later stages, since early stages don’t show symptoms.
The stages are as follows:
- Stage I- tumor cells begin growing on the lining of the lungs
- Stage II – The cancer cells begin spreading to the lymph nodes
- Stage III – The cancer cells have spread deeper into the lungs
- Stage IV – The tumors have multiplied and grown in size and have spread to other parts of your body.
1 in 15 men and 1 in 17 women are at risk of developing lung cancer. The risks affect both men and women who smoke and those who don’t smoke.
The risks are much higher for smokers compared to nonsmokers. Research shows that Black men are 12% more likely to develop lung cancer than White men, while Black women have a 16% lower chance of getting lung cancer than White women.
In mesothelioma, the prevalence is much lower. Only about 3000 cases are reported each year. The rates were much higher in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the rates have dropped.
Women between 65 and 74 years are more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than men in the same age range.
How Are Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer Diagnosed?
For a diagnosis of either mesothelioma or lung cancer, your doctor will perform a biopsy. A CT scan and PET scan are not enough to differentiate between lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Your doctor can perform a biopsy through:
- Needle biopsy
- Thoracoscopic surgery
Each of these tests will detect any abnormalities in your lungs, and in case of any, a sample will be collected for cancer screening.
A mesothelioma patient will show either pleural thickening (scarring on your lining of the lungs) or pleural effusion (fluid build-up) in your chest cavity). Your doctor will collect the fluid and test it for cancer cells.
With lung cancer, the lining of the lungs doesn’t thicken. However, in some cases, your patients can show signs of pleural emissions.
Treatment of Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer
Since mesothelioma is aggressive and deadly, doctors have to catch it early to manage and treat it. Surgery is usually the most common means of treating mesothelioma and reducing fluid build-up in the lungs.
Doctors can also use chemotherapy or immunotherapy to treat mesothelioma. Chemotherapy is an aggressive type of treatment that can reduce and slow down the growth of cancer cells.
For lung cancer patients, doctors will decide on the best lung cancer treatment option depending on the stages of cancer. The treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and target therapy.
Mesothelioma and lung cancer are deadly types of cancer that affect the lungs. However, mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, abdomens, testes, and abdomen.
Mesothelioma is rare, and it is mostly caused by exposure to asbestos. At the same time, lung cancer is a common type of cancer caused by tobacco smoking or other environmental factors.
If you have recently been exposed to asbestos or you suspect to have either lung cancer or are developing mesothelioma, see a doctor immediately. Alternatively, you can walk into the Immunity Therapy Center for non-invasive treatment options.
Written By: Dr. Pablo Orozco
Dr. Pablo Orozco is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Orozco has been a treating physician at the Immunity Therapy Center for more than 3 years providing daily on site patient care. He works with patients on a daily basis and guides them through the treatment process. Dr. Orozco’s passion for Alternative Cancer Treatments along with his commitment to patient care is key to insure that our patients have the best experience and results possible.
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.