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Is Mesothelioma Lung Cancer?
Mesothelioma can affect the lungs, but it is not technically lung cancer. It affects the mesothelium, a membrane that covers several internal organs and allows them to safely move against each other. Pleural malignant mesothelioma, for example, is cancer of the part of the mesothelium that protects the lungs. But while the two diseases are different, there are several similarities between them.
The Main Culprit
Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of pleural malignant mesothelioma, but it can also be a direct cause of lung cancer as well. Mesothelioma can also develop in the lining that surrounds the heart and abdomen. While rare, the disease can occur in the testes area as well.
There is a separate form of lung cancer that is caused by asbestos. Known as asbestos lung cancer, it develops when asbestos fibers become trapped in the lungs. Over time, these fibers can inflame tissue and eventually trigger the growth of cancerous cells. This disease can take as long as 30 years or more to develop.
Both diseases have similar symptoms. For instance, they can result in coughing, trouble breathing, weight loss, fatigue and chest pain. A doctor will typically suspect lung cancer in someone who experiences these symptoms and smokes, while he or she will usually look for mesothelioma in someone who has a history of asbestos exposure.
Like most forms of cancer, the treatments for both pleural malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer depend how far the cancer has spread. In most cases, treatment will include a combination of chemotherapy and/or radiation as well as surgery.
If the cancer is localized, then surgery is typically recommended to take out as much cancerous tissue as possible. If it has spread, chemo and radiation may be used as well as treatments to reduce discomfort.