The Differences Between Mesothelioma And Asbestosis

To many people, the words mesothelioma and asbestosis are virtual synonyms. They know only that both are caused by exposure to asbestos, and that both can be prevented if exposure to asbestos is limited by proper protective equipment.

Mesothelioma, also known as asbestos cancer, has similarities with other types of cancers. Tumors begin to grow in the mesothelium, the lining that encloses the inside of your body, including your organs. The site of the most tumor activity is the mesothelium around the chest lungs, called the pleura. Asbestos cancer around the lungs is referred to as pleural mesothelioma.

However, not all forms of the illness occur around the lungs. Mesothelioma can also appear as peritoneal mesothelioma, found around the stomach. There is also a pericardial form of the disease, where tumors gather around the tissue of the heart.

Although asbestos cancer manifests in the linings around organs rather than in the tissues themselves, it is still often mistaken for stomach cancer or lung cancer.

Asbestosis: Different Symptoms, Different Illness

Asbestosis is another commonly recognized illness that stems from prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers. The fibers are inhaled and are able to travel deep into the lungs, embedding themselves within the alveoli, the air sacs that handle daily oxygen intake. The body recognizes them as foreign bodies and tries to expel them, activating an immune response.

However, the asbestos fibers become lodged and the body cannot remove them. The body’s immune response creates an inflammation that eventually results in scar tissue in the inner walls of the lungs. This condition leads to shortness of breath that comes on gradually and typically worsens during exercise.

Lung Cancer: Many Differences, Some Similarities

Lung cancer can appear in anyone’s lungs, even among people who have never worked with asbestos. In contrast, asbestosis requires that one have come into contact with asbestos. Mesothelioma may be contracted in cases where asbestos exposure is not evident, but those situations are extremely rare.

Sadly, there is one thing all of these diseases have in common: the search for a cure. None is currently curable, although there are treatments that can alleviate the symptoms. For asbestosis, one of the most effective treatments is in-home oxygen use, which ensures that the patient receives proper oxygen flow despite reduced lung function. For mesothelioma and lung cancer, the treatments are more complex, but all focus around patient comfort and quality of life.

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