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The Difference Between Asbestosis and Mesothelioma

The Difference Between Asbestosis and Mesothelioma

While it is true that asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma and asbestosis, the two illnesses are vastly different, despite their route cause being the same. These differences range from signs, and symptoms, to prognosis, and treatment. The main difference between asbestosis and mesothelioma is that mesothelioma is a type of cancer, while asbestosis is a pulmonary disease. However, it should be noted that if one has asbestosis, they are more likely to develop lung cancer in the future.

Asbestosis, like mesothelioma, is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. In asbestosis, these fibers make their way to one’s lungs and become embedded in the inner tissue. The tissue then scars causing “fibrosis.” Once the tissue begins to scar, it then starts to harden which stops the flow of oxygen; making it hard for the patient to breathe. It can take between 10 and 40 years to develop asbestosis.

Mesothelioma on the other hand, affects the protective lining around internal organs which is called the mesothelium. The lining around the lungs is the most common affected area. Asbestos fibers, once breathed or ingested, imbed themselves in this lining and become lodged there. Along with asbestosis, mesothelioma can take decades to develop.

There are two common forms of mesothelioma: pleural and peritoneal. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type, making up over two-thirds of all cases. This type of mesothelioma affects an area of the lung and chest cavity known as the pleura. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdominal lining and is sometimes referred to as abdominal mesothelioma. It is a less common form of mesothelioma.

Signs, Symptoms, and Prognosis
The signs and symptoms between asbestosis and mesothelioma are similar, but those with mesothelioma will experience much more severe symptoms. The most common symptoms between the two, according to an article by Mesothelioma Guide, are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent Cough
  • Weight loss

Mesothelioma patients can show signs of Jaundice, low blood sugar, blood clots, fluid in lungs, and fatigue. Those suffering from asbestosis show an unusual symptom of the disease called “clubbing,” which affects the fingers. Since there is a lack of oxygen circulating throughout the body, the nail plate on a patient’s finger becomes thicker/wider, and becomes misshapen and swollen. Typically, that is a sign of advanced stages of asbestosis.

Asbestosis can be fatal, but the prognosis for patients is better than those diagnosed with mesothelioma. It affects all patients differently, but those with the disease could live for decades.  However, the patient’s quality of life will continually deteriorate over time. Those diagnosed with mesothelioma are given a bleak outlook. According to an article by Mesothelioma Guide, patients with mesothelioma are typically given between 4 and 12 months to live.

There is no known cure for asbestosis or mesothelioma, but researchers and scientists are working on new and advanced treatments daily.  For patients with asbestosis, treatments are not as aggressive and tend to focus on pain relief and slowing down the spread of asbestosis. The article by Mesothelioma Guide notes that breathing tanks, pain medication, inhalers, and pulmonary medications and antibiotics are the typical treatments. As mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer by nature, the treatments are also aggressive if the patient is strong enough to tolerate the treatments. Chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy, gene therapy, and photodynamic therapy are all common treatment regimens.
Asbestosis and mesothelioma are just two of the terrible results due to asbestos exposure. Asbestosis and mesothelioma still kill thousands of people a year. EWG Action Fund analyzed data taken from 1999 to 2013 and found that on average, 2,848 people a year die from mesothelioma and 1,451 individuals die from asbestosis. Both illnesses develop over a long period of time and drastically decrease your quality of life – whether it is over the course of a few months or ten years.

Despite decades of knowing asbestos exposure dangers, companies still withheld, downplayed, and ignored the issue. It wasn’t until a series of lawsuits in the early 1970s that companies were held accountable for their use and manufacture of asbestos containing products.. Those first mesothelioma lawsuits paved the way for modern asbestos litigation. It’s a journey toward compensating those injured by asbestos that the Goldberg, Persky & White law firm has been a part of since the beginning.  Many general questions are answered in our Ask an Asbestos Attorney section; please contact us for answers to your specific questions or to discuss, with no obligation, your case.


Mesothelioma Guide, “Mesothelioma v. Asbestosis,” [Link]

Emelda M., “Difference Between Mesothelioma and Asbestosis,” Differencebetween.net (February 20, 2011). [Link]

Sonya Lunder,”Asbestos Kills 12,000-15,000 people per year in the U.S.,” Asbestos Nation [Link]