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Difference Between Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer

Mesothelioma is cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and other organs. Lung cancer is specifically cancer of the lungs.

What is Mesothelioma?


Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the lining of certain organs, specifically the lungs, heart, and stomach.

Causes and survival rate:

The cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma is a deadly and aggressive cancer with only about a 12% survival after 5 years. Many patients only survive about a year after diagnosis.


Mesothelioma is diagnosed in a few ways. Chest X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans diagnose and also help stage the cancer. A biopsy of the pleura and extraction of fluid surrounding the pleura can show the presence of the cancer cells.


The most common symptoms are chest pain and shortness of breath because the most common form mesothelioma takes is it attacks the pleura. These are the membranes surrounding the lungs. As the cancer spreads other symptoms like increased pain and difficulty swallowing, may occur. 


Mesothelioma treatment is often supportive and also includes chemotherapy, surgery, drainage of pleural fluid, pleurectomy, and pain relief.

What is Lung Cancer?


Lung cancer is carcinoma that develops in the respiratory system and affects the lungs.

Causes and survival rate:

The main cause of lung cancer is smoking cigarettes (over 80% of cases). Certain conditions increase the chance of lung cancer, for instance, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, and pulmonary fibrosis. Diet, viruses like HPV, and genetics may play a role in lung cancer development in non-smokers. Lung cancer survival is about 19% at 5 years but varies depending on the stage of the disease.


Diagnosis is by imaging tests like a chest X-ray, chest CT scan for staging, and PET scan. The PET scan can help when doctors need to do a needle biopsy. Samples of sputum and pleural fluid can sometimes be used to look for malignant cells. Besides biopsy, bronchoscopy may be done to look for lesions and obtain samples for testing. Bronchoscopy is a common method of lung cancer diagnosis.


The signs of lung cancer include coughing, coughing up blood (hemoptysis), chest pain, and weight loss.


Treatment of lung cancer patients include using various methods such as immunotherapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.

Difference between Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer?


Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, and stomach. Lung cancer is a carcinoma of the lungs.

Cells affected

Mesothelioma affects the epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Lung cancer affects epithelial cells, usually of the bronchi, first.


The cause of mesothelioma is asbestos. The cause of lung cancer is usually cigarette smoking, but other factors including genetics, viruses, and lifestyle factors may play a role.


Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath and chest pain. Symptoms of lung cancer include chest pain, coughing, hemoptysis, and weight loss.


Treatment options for mesothelioma include a pleurectomy, removal of pleural fluid, chemotherapy, pain medication, and supportive care. Treatment options for lung cancer include pain medication, radiation therapy, surgery, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy


The 5-year survival of mesothelioma is about 12%. The 5-year survival of lung cancer is about 19%.

Table comparing Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer

Summary of Mesothelioma Vs. Lung Cancer

  • Mesothelioma and lung cancer can both affect the lungs.
  • While mesothelioma is caused by asbestos, lung cancer is mainly due to cigarette smoking, although genetics and other factors may play a role as well.
  • Survival rates for mesothelioma and lung cancer are quite low at 5 years.


Is mesothelioma the same as cancer?

Mesothelioma is a specific type of cancer.

Is small cell lung cancer the same as mesothelioma?

No, small cell lung cancer is not the same and it occurs inside the lung while mesothelioma is on the membranes outside the lungs.

Can mesothelioma be misdiagnosed as lung cancer?

It is possible that mesothelioma can be misdiagnosed as lung cancer because it can cause harm to the actual lungs.

What is the life expectancy of a person with mesothelioma?

The life expectancy of someone with mesothelioma is only from 4 months to 18 months, usually.

What is the deadliest cancer?

Lung cancer is often thought of as the deadliest cancer because more people are diagnosed with this than any other cancer and it causes over 100,000 deaths each year in the United States.

 Is mesothelioma cancer terminal?

Mesothelioma is terminal, particularly at stage 4; the life expectancy with this cancer is low at 5 years, even for earlier stages.

What is the name of the most aggressive lung cancer?

Small cell lung cancer is the fastest-growing and most aggressive form of lung cancer, with a survival of only about 7% at 5 years.

 What type of lung cancer is asbestos?

Asbestos causes mesothelioma, which is not lung cancer per se, but affects the lining of the lungs.

What cancer is similar to mesothelioma?

Adenocarcinoma lung cancer can be mistaken for mesothelioma because the symptoms are very similar.

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References :

[0]Akhtar, Nahid, and Jeena Gupta Bansal. "Risk factors of Lung Cancer in nonsmoker." Current problems in cancer 41.5 (2017): 328-339.

[1]Keith, Robert L. “Lung Carcinoma (Lung Cancer)”. Merckmanuals. Merck & Co., 2022, https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/tumors-of-the-lungs/lung-carcinoma

[2]Lara, Abigail R. “Mesothelioma”. Merckmanuals. Merck & Co., 2022, https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/environmental-pulmonary-diseases/mesothelioma

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