Asbestosis vs. Mesothelioma

Although asbestosis and mesothelioma are both asbestos-related diseases caused by inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers, they are quite different diseases. The primary difference is that asbestosis is not a cancer, but a chronic lung disease; whereas, mesothelioma is a cancer condition. Asbestosis does, however, increase the risk of developing lung cancer.


Because asbestosis and mesothelioma have the same cause—exposure to asbestos, the same group of people, including miners and electricians, who are at high risk for asbestos are the same ones at risk for mesothelioma. Asbestosis is caused from asbestos fibers lodged in the alveoli, the lung’s air sacs; mesothelioma develops from asbestos fibers lodged in the pleura, the lining of the lungs.


Both diseases also have a long latency period, between time of exposure and emergence of the disease. It can take 10-40 years for both asbestosis and mesothelioma to develop. Patients with asbestosis and mesothelioma experience many of the same symptoms, such as shortness of breath, persistent cough, chest pain and weight loss. However, mesothelioma patients experience much more severe symptoms, such as wheezing and pleural effusions, as the disease progresses. A symptom that is more specific to asbestosis is clubbing of the fingers and nails, which is often an indication of lung or heart problems caused by a lack of oxygen in the body.


Diagnosing asbestosis and mesothelioma both begin with imaging tests, for example an X-ray or CT scan, which will show excessive whiteness on the imaging test results. If a doctor believes a patient could have mesothelioma, additional biopsy and blood tests will be performed to determine if cancerous cells are present.


Both diseases have a poor result. Unlike mesothelioma, the prognosis related with asbestosis is much more positive. In general, mesothelioma patients are given a prognosis of 4-12 months; however, patients with asbestosis can live decades with the disease with careful medical management. Unfortunately, asbestosis is still a deadly disease and these patients may develop mesothelioma in the future.


Madeksho Law Firm PLLC has over 40 years of experience representing individuals suffering from asbestos-related diseases. If you or a loved one has developed asbestosis, mesothelioma or any other type of lung disease as a result of asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation.