The Differences Between Asbestosis and Mesothelioma Discussed

Difference Between Asbestosis and Mesothelioma

Prolonged exposure to asbestos has been linked to a number of chronic diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other types of cancers. These diseases are caused by the inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers over a long period of time.

Both asbestosis and mesothelioma are caused by inhaling fine asbestos fibers. However, these two diseases are totally different, although to most people, they are one and the same. One of the main differences is that mesothelioma is malignant (cancerous) while asbestosis is not. However, while asbestosis is not cancerous, it can increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer. Also, individuals with asbestosis are at risk of developing mesothelioma.

“UK – In 2011 there were 178 deaths directly caused by asbestosis and 429 where the condition was thought to have played a role.”

This article discusses the main difference (s) between asbestosis and mesothelioma in terms of;

  • Development
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Prognosis

Asbestosis Vs Mesothelioma- Development

Exposure to asbestos is what causes asbestosis and mesothelioma. However, asbestosis develops when the microscopic fibers of asbestos lodge in the alveoli; the air sacs of the lungs. These fibers accumulate in these air sacs and with time, stiffness and scarring of the lungs increases. The disease causes respiratory complications.

On the other hand, Mesothelioma develops when asbestos fibers lodge in the outer membranes, linings, of the lungs and abdomen. Over time, small malignant growths start to appear on the lungs.

Asbestosis Vs Mesothelioma- Symptoms

Interestingly, most symptoms of asbestosis and mesothelioma are similar. Such symptoms include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pains, persistent dry coughs, fatigue, and weight loss. Mesothelioma patients however experience more severe symptoms compared to those of asbestosis.

However, there are a few unique symptoms exhibited in asbestosis patients. They include:

  • Clubbing of fingers and nails as a result of reduced oxygen in the body. People with mesothelioma may also develop clubbed fingers and nails, although it’s a rare phenomenon.
  • Cardiac complications: high blood pressure and heart disease.

Asbestosis Vs Mesothelioma- Diagnosis

An imaging test via X-ray and CT scan is usually the first step towards the diagnosis of both asbestosis and mesothelioma. The doctor can easily distinguish asbestosis from mesothelioma since each disease affects a different part of the lung/body.

The difference in diagnosis usually depends on the disease identified. A further blood test and a biopsy will be performed so as to determine the presence of any malignant cells in patients with mesothelioma. A person with asbestosis may also undergo a biopsy just to rule out the presence of mesothelioma or to confirm that it’s present together with asbestosis.

Asbestosis vs Mesothelioma- Treatment

In general, the treatment options for both asbestosis and mesothelioma are totally different. This could be because mesothelioma is a type of cancer while asbestosis is not.

The main treatment differences between the two are as follows;

In mesothelioma, patients may be required to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and other treatment options. These treatments are often aggressive and tend to have many side effects. On the other hand, most asbestosis treatment options are less aggressive and mainly focus on relieving the symptoms as well as slowing down the disease’s progression. These treatment options also focus on improving the patient’s quality of life. Patients with asbestosis are often provided with antibiotics, pain medication, inhalers (bronchodilators), and breathing tanks. Surgery for asbestosis (thoracentesis) is only considered to drain fluid from the affected lungs so as to improve breathing in patients.

  • If mesothelioma is caught early, a part of the affected lung may be removed.
  • If asbestosis is more advanced and severe, a lung transplant may be offered.

Asbestosis vs Mesothelioma- Prognosis

Regardless of the many treatment options available for both asbestosis and mesothelioma, their prognosis is very poor. However, the prognosis for asbestosis is much better compared to that of mesothelioma. This may be due to the fact that mesothelioma is only discovered in its later stages.

The prognosis for mesothelioma is usually between 4 and 12 months. On the other hand, a person with asbestosis can live with the condition for years or even decades. In other words, the prognosis for asbestosis can be said to be good. However, the quality of life of asbestosis patients is significantly reduced.

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