Mesothelioma and asbestosis are both asbestos-related illnesses with similarities and differences. Asbestosis is non-cancerous and only affects the lungs and respiratory system. However, mesothelioma is a mesothelial tissue cancer affecting the lungs and the abdomen.
Does Asbestosis differ from Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma and asbestosis are two separate illnesses that affect the lungs severely and arise in the chest. Both of these ailments are brought on by asbestos exposure, but they manifest differently. Asbestosis is a sort of lung fibrosis, while mesothelioma is cancerous. Mesothelioma is malignant due to the deformities on your DNA from asbestos and tumor development caused by unregulated cellular proliferation. Pulmonary fibrosis, like asbestosis, is not cancerous but rather scar tissue inside the respiratory system that inhibits breathing due to tissue thickness and stiffness.
Asbestosis scar tissue is permanent and produces increased respiratory suffering over time. It does not result in any tumor formation and is restricted to the breathing system. However, mesothelioma is cancerous and can affect other body systems such as the abdomen. Tumors of Mesothelioma can form in the abdomen or the breathing system.
Individuals with mesothelioma have tumors in the exterior tissue lining of their lungs that affect other organs in the chest cavity, such as the diaphragm or the heart. Asbestosis and mesothelioma have different prognoses and life expectancies. Mesothelioma cancer therapy is complex, where few patients survive for 12 to 21 months. Asbestosis is a chronic, persistent respiratory disease that doctors can treat to extend your life for many decades, although incurable.
Leading causes and risk factors for mesothelioma
There are different types of mesothelioma, but the majority of mesotheliomas are considered to be caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral in the environment. Asbestos fibers are strong and heat-resistant, making them valuable in various uses, including insulation, brakes, shingles, flooring, and many other items.
Dust may be produced when asbestos fiber is broken up during the mining process or when asbestos insulation is removed. If the dust is breathed or ingested, the asbestos fibers will settle in the lungs or stomach, causing discomfort and perhaps leading to mesothelioma. The exact mechanism by which this occurs is unknown. Mesothelioma may develop 20 to 60 years or more after asbestos exposure.
Most persons who have been exposed to asbestos do not acquire mesothelioma, meaning that other variables may play a role in the development of the disease. For example, you may inherit a predisposition to cancer, or another illness may enhance your risk. Other risk factors include:
- Personal asbestos exposure history: Your risk of developing mesothelioma is considerably elevated if you have been directly exposed to asbestos fibers or asbestos containing material at work or home.
- Living with asbestos workers or those who have occupational asbestos exposure: Asbestos fibers may be carried home by those who have been exposed to them via their skin and clothes. Long-term exposure to these stray fibers may put individuals in the household at a higher risk factor of developing mesothelioma. People who work in areas with high levels of asbestos may lessen their chances of taking asbestos fibers home by bathing and changing their clothing before leaving work.
- A family history of Mesothelioma: If your parent, sibling, or child has mesothelioma, you may be at a higher risk of developing cancer.
- Radiation therapy to the chest: If you undergo radiation treatment for chest cancer, you might be at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
What are the similarities between Asbestosis and Mesothelioma?
Although asbestosis isn’t a malignant illness, it has many similar symptoms to mesothelioma, including difficulties in breathing. Inflammation stemming from asbestos exposure causes both diseases. Asbestosis and mesothelioma have several symptoms in common, including:
- Breathing difficulty
- Tightness and discomfort in the chest
- Chest pain
- Dry cough that persists
- Weight loss and appetite suppression
- General exhaustion and feebleness
Individuals with mesothelioma often have more severe symptoms sooner in their condition than asbestosis patients. People with asbestosis may not have severe symptoms for several years after being diagnosed.
Both disorders may potentially result in fluids on the individual’s chest. As edema and inflammation worsen, cellular discharges and fluid buildup in the chest lining that surrounds the lungs. Most symptoms are exacerbated and might lead to breathing challenges due to increased pressure on the lungs.
What causes Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, and other similar diseases?
Persistent or recurrent exposure to fibers from asbestos materials and debris are the common cause of asbestosis and mesothelioma. These materials are microscopic and needle-like natural compounds released into the air when objects with asbestos are disrupted or broken down.
After you inhale these materials, your system cannot dissolve them, leading the mineral to get lodged inside the lungs, pleura, and other tissue. Due to their existence, the immune system initiates an inflammatory reaction to eliminate the fibers. The inflammation produces damage and scarring over time, eventually leading to more asbestos-related disorders. These illnesses include:
- Bronchial cancer
- Pleural edema
- Chronic chest fluids
Asbestos related lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos materials occur due to DNA damage caused by recurrent edema and the peculiar structure of asbestos materials. Damaged DNA causes unlimited cell degeneration and the development of malignant tumors, which may grow and spread throughout the body.
Damaged tissues and asbestosis are also caused by persistent edema in the lungs. Scar tissue is more rigid than healthy tissue, and it stiffens the lungs, limiting their capacity to expand for a complete breath. Damaged tissues in the alveoli prevent the respiratory system from dissolving oxygen into the bloodstream. Combined with increasing lung stiffness, these difficulties result in persistent oxygen deficits and respiratory consequences that worsen with age.
Does Asbestosis cause Mesothelioma?
Furthermore, since asbestosis has no treatment, patients need drugs to relieve congestion in the lungs, supplementary oxygen, or even a lung transplant. Unfortunately, asbestosis may also lead to the development of malignant mesothelioma.
Diagnosing Asbestosis and Mesothelioma
Diagnosis of Mesothelioma and Asbestosis requires extensive medical and professional checkups. As with other types of breathing system conditions, a review of characteristics and essential imaging may not uncover the origin of asbestosis unless there exists prior detail and information of hazardous exposure.
Consulting a physician if you experience breathing issues or shortness of breath is the initial step in identifying Asbestosis and Mesothelioma. A doctor will perform a CT scan and an X-ray on your chest to detect any visible irregularities in your chest. However, Asbestosis and Mesothelioma do not produce precise imaging results unless they have been present for many years.
On imaging, the first indications of either sickness may emerge as regions of greater density, damaged tissues, or a small malignant mass. Since these symptoms take longer to manifest, a diagnostic image does not appear until many years after asbestos exposure. However, a biopsy is required to distinguish between both conditions. These biopsies include:
- Thoracoscopic surgery: is an intrusive procedure that enables surgeons to retrieve a core tissue sample and provides the most accurate tissue examination.
- Needle Biopsy: A medical professional uses guided imagery in combination with needle aspiration of fluids, including a part of tissue cells, for pathological diagnosis.
- Bronchoscopy: A medical professional inserts a tiny camera connected to a slim, malleable tube into the breathing passages via the nose or mouth to see tissue and extract a sample.
These methods may also aid clinicians in identifying symptoms of pleural thickening or effusion, which might lead to a diagnosis. In most circumstances, physicians will not rule out cancer until biopsy results turn out negative.
Asbestosis vs. Mesothelioma Treatment
Mesothelioma treatment options include incision and various cancer therapies, while asbestosis therapy is confined to incision. After your mesothelioma diagnosis is established, therapy will consist of anti-cancer medicines tailored to your phase and tissue type. The medical professional will determine whether the cancer cells spread to other tissue cells or exist in any other parts of your body.
If you are in the early stages of mesothelioma, surgery is the best treatment option choice. To remove any leftover cells, doctors often mix Mesothelioma therapy with additional methods such as radiation and iconoclast. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is often identified later due to the disease’s extended latency phase, making disease control difficult.
- Pneumonectomy: This procedure, an alternative to EPP, removes the damaged lung.
- Pleurectomy and Decortication: This procedure removes the lungs’ lining and any obvious malignancies. Surgeons next scrape the diseased lung’s surface to eliminate any leftover cancerous tissues.
- Extrapleural Pneumonectomy: It is the primarily applied invasive surgical approach and involves the removal of a damaged lung, a portion of the membrane that surrounds the heart, a portion of the muscle that connects the lungs to the belly, and a portion of the chest lining tissue.
Most Asbestosis therapies are restricted to surgical treatments that enhance breathing by emptying excess fluid from the respiratory system. In extreme circumstances, advanced asbestosis conditions may lead to necessary lung transplants, which is impossible for asbestos cancer patients.
If you have these conditions, your physician may give you pain relievers to make your breathing much easier. People with asbestosis need bronchodilator-assisted breathing treatments. The risk factors for asbestosis increase as you grow older. You can anticipate more frequent therapy to manage symptoms and avoid infection, such as supplementary antibacterial and artificial air.
What is the average life expectancy for an asbestosis patient?
Asbestosis is not cancerous. It is a chronic and progressive lung illness caused by long-term inhalation of asbestos fibers. It might take anywhere from five to 20 years for symptoms to appear.
You can visit Immunity Therapy Center for more treatment options or any inquiries. Regardless, if you experience symptoms of Asbestosis and Mesothelioma, you should see your doctor because they have the necessary equipment and expertise to detect and diagnose the problem.
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.