Lung Cancer vs. Mesothelioma

What's the Difference?

Lung cancer and mesothelioma are both serious and life-threatening diseases that affect the respiratory system. However, they differ in terms of their origin and the specific cells they affect. Lung cancer is primarily caused by smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, or environmental factors such as air pollution. It originates in the lung tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. On the other hand, mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. It affects the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen and is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. Both diseases require prompt medical attention and treatment, but mesothelioma is particularly challenging to treat due to its aggressive nature and limited treatment options.


AttributeLung CancerMesothelioma
Cancer TypeLung CancerMesothelioma
Primary Affected OrganLungsPleura (lining of the lungs)
Main CauseSmoking, exposure to carcinogensAsbestos exposure
SymptomsCoughing, shortness of breath, chest painChest pain, difficulty breathing, coughing
Treatment OptionsSurgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapySurgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy
PrognosisVaries depending on stage and treatmentGenerally poor prognosis
PreventionAvoid smoking, reduce exposure to carcinogensAvoid asbestos exposure

Further Detail


Lung cancer and mesothelioma are two types of cancer that primarily affect the respiratory system. While they both have similarities in terms of their impact on the lungs, they differ in terms of their causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options. Understanding the attributes of these two diseases is crucial for early detection, accurate diagnosis, and effective treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

Lung cancer is most commonly caused by smoking, with approximately 85% of cases attributed to tobacco use. Other risk factors include exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas, asbestos, and air pollution. On the other hand, mesothelioma is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in construction, insulation, and other industries until its ban due to health concerns. Individuals who have worked in asbestos-related industries or have been exposed to asbestos fibers indirectly are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.


The symptoms of lung cancer and mesothelioma can be similar, but there are some differences. Common symptoms of lung cancer include persistent cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, hoarseness, weight loss, and recurring respiratory infections. Mesothelioma, on the other hand, often presents with symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, fatigue, weight loss, and fluid buildup in the lungs or abdomen. It is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other respiratory conditions, so proper medical evaluation is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.


Diagnosing lung cancer and mesothelioma involves a combination of medical history evaluation, physical examination, imaging tests (such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs), and tissue biopsies. In the case of lung cancer, a biopsy is usually performed by removing a small sample of lung tissue for laboratory analysis. Mesothelioma diagnosis often requires a biopsy of the affected tissue, which can be obtained through various methods, including thoracoscopy or laparoscopy. Additionally, specialized tests may be conducted to determine the stage and extent of the disease.

Treatment Options

The treatment options for lung cancer and mesothelioma depend on several factors, including the stage of the disease, overall health of the patient, and individual preferences. Common treatment modalities for lung cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. The specific treatment plan is determined by the type and stage of lung cancer. In contrast, mesothelioma treatment often involves a multimodal approach, combining surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. However, due to the aggressive nature of mesothelioma, curative treatment options are limited, and the focus is often on palliative care to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Prognosis and Survival Rates

The prognosis and survival rates for lung cancer and mesothelioma vary depending on several factors, including the stage at diagnosis, overall health, and response to treatment. Lung cancer has a wide range of survival rates, with early-stage lung cancer having a higher chance of successful treatment and long-term survival. However, the overall five-year survival rate for lung cancer is relatively low, around 19%. Mesothelioma, on the other hand, has a generally poor prognosis due to its aggressive nature and late-stage diagnosis. The five-year survival rate for mesothelioma is typically less than 10%, although advancements in treatment options and early detection techniques are gradually improving these statistics.


Prevention plays a crucial role in reducing the incidence of lung cancer and mesothelioma. The most effective way to prevent lung cancer is to avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. Additionally, reducing exposure to environmental risk factors such as radon gas and air pollution can also help lower the risk. As for mesothelioma, preventing exposure to asbestos is key. This can be achieved by following proper safety protocols in industries where asbestos is still used, as well as ensuring the safe removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials in older buildings.


Lung cancer and mesothelioma are two distinct types of cancer that affect the respiratory system. While lung cancer is primarily caused by smoking and has a higher incidence rate, mesothelioma is mainly caused by asbestos exposure and has a lower prevalence. Both diseases have similar symptoms but differ in terms of treatment options and prognosis. Early detection, accurate diagnosis, and prompt treatment are crucial for improving survival rates and quality of life for individuals affected by these diseases. By understanding the attributes of lung cancer and mesothelioma, we can raise awareness, promote prevention, and support ongoing research efforts to combat these devastating illnesses.

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