Both lung cancer and mesothelioma come with very similar initial symptoms. That is why it will be almost impossible to make a precise diagnosis if no specialist attention and further tests are involved. An accurate mesothelioma diagnosis can only be made by mesothelioma specialists, after all. General oncologists might find it hard to recognize mesothelioma since this disease is pretty rare. They might not have the needed experience to make an accurate diagnosis. What are the differences between mesothelioma and lung cancer?
To compare lung cancer and mesothelioma, we need to know the cause of both conditions. The cause of mesothelioma is associated with microscopic asbestos fibers. Inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers will be trapped in organ tissues. It is almost impossible to remove those microscopic fibers naturally from the tissues.
They will lead to mesothelioma because this toxin will trigger some changes at a cellular level. It can cause not only genetic damage but also scarring and inflammation. Those conditions can even lead to cancer that usually can be diagnosed 10-50 years after asbestos exposure.
While mesothelioma has only a single cause, multiple possible causes can be found in lung cancer. The way it develops will be different depending on the underlying cause. The lung’s cell that grows abnormally and forms into tumors that can spread to other body parts is considered lung cancer, after all. From various possible causes of lung cancer, smoking becomes the highest possible one.
The risk is getting higher when people are smoking while having other risk factors. Other risk factors of lung cancer include secondhand smoke, air pollution, genetic history, radon or radiation exposure, asbestos exposure, and HIV infection.
Mesothelioma and lung cancer are different. To make an accurate diagnosis, the doctor needs to check the cells of mesothelioma and lung cancer under a microscope. This method is important to spot the different growth between mesothelioma and lung cancer. The typical lung cancer grows in individual masses with defined boundaries.
Meanwhile, the beginning of mesothelioma is small nodule tumors that are scattered in the lung’s mesothelial lining. The tumors eventually grow together and form a tumor that looks like a sheath surrounding the lung or other organs. Yes, mesothelioma can be found not only in the lungs but also in other organs, such as the abdomen, heart, and testes. Meanwhile, lung cancer can only be found in the lung area.
The difference between lung cancer and mesothelioma can also be found in tests. Under an MRI scan, mesothelioma appears as diseased tumors or tissues through the energy release rate. With additional magnetic field scans, the tumor image captured will determine the cancer form and its spread.
The doctors will need to check the soft tissue that lining the chest cavity using CT scans and X-rays. The image result of those tests will reveal the difference between lung cancer, mesothelioma, and pneumonia.
Diagnosing lung cancer and mesothelioma can be challenging because both come with similar symptoms. The doctors might try to diagnose mesothelioma further if the patient has an asbestos exposure history. Both diseases can cause other problems and doctors will use them to identify mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Doctors might pay attention to the early warning signs of mesothelioma. They include a continuous cough that does not disappear. Patients might also experience shortness of breath and difficulty breathing or swallowing. If there is blood in mucus that is coughed up from the lungs, it can also be a sign of mesothelioma. Face or neck veins swelling, tiredness, and unexplained appetite or weight loss are also possible signs of mesothelioma.
Besides paying attention to the signs, medical history and genetics will also be reviewed by the doctors to determine the necessary tests to take. For diagnosing mesothelioma, some imaging tests might be taken, including X-rays, CT/CAT scan, MRI scan, PET scan, and bone scan.
Other lab tests might be performed as well. Biopsies will be used for taking and checking the cells from the lung to get examined under a microscope. It will help doctors to tell the cancer type from the way the cells appear and behave.
The doctors might also check the tumor clumps. They will check whether there is a sheath surrounding the lung that is formed by the scattered nodules. It can be a sign of mesothelioma. There will not be any boundary in mesothelioma tumors that make them different from lung cancer tumors. Nevertheless, doctors usually will rule out lung cancer diagnosis first because it is a more common diagnosis.
It is important to determine the difference between lung cancer and mesothelioma because both diseases will be treated differently, as well. Nevertheless, both need multimodal treatment that will involve more than the one targeted therapy type. The treatment and the order of treatment will depend on the patient’s condition and the disease stage.
The treatment plan of mesothelioma might include radiation therapy in internal and external forms to treat, reduce, or relieve symptoms. Chemotherapy is another treatment used to attack the cancerous cells in any body parts through the bloodstream. The drugs for chemotherapy can be provided orally or by vein.
Surgery can also be utilized to remove cancer or cancerous growth depending on the cancer stage. Last but not least, palliative treatments might also be involved to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
The specialist might recommend some treatment options for lung cancer. The very first one is surgery that will be used for removing cancerous growth according to the cancer stage. It might be the best option to cure the disease.
More other treatments might be performed, as well, including radiofrequency ablation that will involve high-energy radio waves for heating the cell-destroying tumor. To treat, shrink, and also relieve symptoms, external or internal radiation therapy might also be taken for the lung cancer patient.
Chemotherapy drugs might also be provided by vein or orally for the lung cancer patient because they will attack the cancerous cells located in any part of the body. Lung cancer patients might also take targeted therapies as an alternative option because it works differently than chemotherapy drugs. Targeted therapies might be chosen because they usually have less severe effects, unlike chemotherapy. These therapies can be used alone often for advanced cancer forms. Nevertheless, they can also be combined with chemotherapy treatments.
Immunotherapy might also be performed to stimulate the immune system so it will recognize the cancer cells and destroy them for more efficient results. Just like mesothelioma, a lung cancer patient might also take palliative treatments for relieving symptoms and improving quality of life. Various symptoms might need specific treatment including the fluid buildup around the heart or lungs and an airway blocked by a tumor.
Importance of a Second Opinion
Once again, it is very difficult to diagnose mesothelioma especially even after taking the fluid tests and bringing the samples to the lab. Mesothelioma cells often look like cells of other cancer types. Mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as lung cancer, after all. That is why it is crucial to get a second opinion on lung cancer and mesothelioma, especially when there is an asbestos history involved. Mesothelioma has several subtypes. Some of them look like lung cancer. Yet, other subtypes, in women particularly, resemble ovarian cancer. A second opinion can be beneficial to get an accurate diagnosis. It will impact the survival of patients dramatically.