Asbestos exposure often leads to the development of an asbestos-related disease, such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. Both types of cancer have different effects on the body and require different treatment options, so this leaves victims of asbestos exposure wondering: Is mesothelioma worse than asbestos lung cancer?
Why Is Mesothelioma Worse Than Lung Cancer?
Mesothelioma is considered worse than lung cancer for many reasons. One of the biggest is that most doctors don’t know what mesothelioma looks like on imaging tests.
Reason #1: Mesothelioma Is One of the Rarest Cancers
Mesothelioma is significantly more difficult to diagnose due to the rarity of the cancer. Mesothelioma is diagnosed less than 3,000 times in the United States each year, meaning very few doctors have experience with this type of disease.
There are not nearly as many mesothelioma specialists as there are lung cancer specialists. In fact, most mesothelioma doctors are also lung cancer doctors. Mesothelioma surgeons usually have the professional title of Thoracic Surgeon, primarily dealing with lung surgeries.
Many doctors are inexperienced when it comes to diagnosing mesothelioma and can miss important signs that could lead to an earlier diagnosis.
Reason #2: Mesothelioma Symptoms Are Hard to Identify
Another factor contributing to the obstacles of mesothelioma is the lack of severe symptoms and inability to differentiate symptoms from the flu or even lung cancer. Mesothelioma symptoms take years to present themselves; this is known as the long latency period. In some cases, symptoms were not active until 60 years after asbestos exposure. Even when symptoms are present, they are usually associated with common illnesses such as the common cold, flu or other respiratory infections, leading to a misdiagnosis and untreated mesothelioma, which allows tumors to grow or spread to other organs.
Sometimes, a mesothelioma diagnosis comes after a misdiagnosis of the flu, or other common illnesses.
For example, a general doctor prescribes cold medicine, but the patient’s symptoms persist long enough to raise concern and get more in-depth tests. The tests return showing the patient is already in advanced stages of mesothelioma.
Reason #3: Need for Specialized Mesothelioma Treatment
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer and will overtake the body if not treated immediately. Due to the lack of severe symptoms and difficult diagnosis, mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in advanced stages, making treatment difficult.
If a patient is in advanced stages of mesothelioma, treatment can be difficult for many reasons. Most mesothelioma treatment options are invasive and aggressive approaches, available only to healthy patients who can survive such extreme procedures and therapies. Mesothelioma treatment options are also limited and typically performed by few specialists at specific cancer centers.
These factors contribute to the poor prognosis with mesothelioma. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients after diagnosis is 12-21 months. Because mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose and often diagnosed in advanced stages, there is not a very hopeful prognosis. However, when mesothelioma is caught timely, there are stories of success and survival.
How Is Lung Cancer “Better” Than Mesothelioma?
A lung cancer diagnosis is considered “better” than a mesothelioma diagnosis due to potential for earlier diagnosis than mesothelioma, accessibility of treatment options and often a hopeful prognosis.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 236,740 lung cancer diagnoses each year. Because lung cancer is such a common cancer, there are abundant resources all over the country. Trained lung cancer specialists are accessible; treatment options are readily available. Because of this, the average prognosis is often better than mesothelioma.
Due to the commonality of lung cancer, the general public is encouraged to participate in lung cancer screenings, especially if they are at-risk. Lung cancer screenings are highly accessible and can most likely be performed at your local hospital. If signs of lung cancer are detected early, there is a high chance for remission due to availability of treatment options.
Lung cancer treatment is much more accessible than treatment for mesothelioma. Because there are possibilities of detecting lung cancer earlier than mesothelioma, lung cancer can be treated faster than mesothelioma.
If lung cancer is found to be in stage I or stage II, there is high hope for remission. In stage I or II, the body is not as damaged by the cancer since it has not spread or grown aggressively. The patient has a high chance of surviving treatment and entering remission.
Any cancer diagnosis is devastating to a patient and their loved ones, but it’s important to be educated on the severity of some cancers. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, contact our Registered Nurse Karen Ritter. She can help answer any health-related questions or concerns.
Sources & Author
Lung Cancer. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer.html. Accessed: 09/02/22.
Sources & Author