Understanding Mesothelioma: Not the Same as Lung Cancer

The dangers of asbestos exposure have been widely known for decades. These dangers include mesothelioma, a form of cancer closely associated with exposure to asbestos. Patients typically develop mesothelioma decades after exposure. By the time it is diagnosed, it is usually in the advanced stages.

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Although mesothelioma is a term that many people know, it is a commonly misunderstood disease. The disease tends to present on tissue surrounding the lungs. But contrary to popular belief, mesothelioma is not a form of lung cancer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, mesothelioma gets its name from the part of the body it attacks: the mesothelium. This is the thin tissue layer that surrounds most of your internal organs. In this sense, mesothelioma is kind of a catch-all term. The specific type diagnosed is based on where the cancer is primarily growing.

Here are some basic definitions, which can also be found on one of our firm’s practice pages:

  • Pleural mesothelioma: Affecting the membranes around the lungs and in the chest
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: Affecting the abdominal cavity
  • Pericardial mesothelioma: Affecting membranes around the heart
  • Gonadal mesothelioma: Surrounding men’s testicles

The two most common types of mesothelioma, according to Mayo, are pleural and peritoneal. They can also be especially difficult to diagnose because their symptoms are common to many ailments. These symptoms include things like chest pain, abdominal pain, persistent coughing, shortness of breath and the presence of unusual lumps.

As with many other diseases, the only “cure” we currently have for mesothelioma is prevention. Unfortunately, not everyone has that luxury; especially if they were exposed to asbestos at work during the decades when asbestos was most commonly used.

If you worry that you or a loved one may be developing mesothelioma, please consult with a doctor as soon as reasonably possible. And if a diagnosis is confirmed, you may be able to pursue compensation from the company or entity responsible for exposing you to asbestos.