5 Diseases Mistaken for Mesothelioma


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Diagnosing Mesothelioma vs. Lung-Related Diseases and Issues

Unfortunately, lung diseases are all too common – and those affected deserve an accurate diagnosis. While respiratory issues are prevalent, diagnosing them sometimes becomes difficult because many lung diseases share similar symptoms. Suppose you’ve been diagnosed with a lung disease or exposed to carcinogens. In that case, you might consider getting a second opinion on your diagnosis to ensure you receive the accurate treatment needed for your disease. This is why we’ve compiled a list of the top five lung diseases most confused with mesothelioma to help you navigate the complexities of these diagnoses.

Diagnosing mesothelioma, an already rare and difficult disease to identify, becomes more challenging since it shares so many symptoms with other lung diseases. Anywhere from 14-25% of mesothelioma cases in the United States are misdiagnosed. The prevalence of similar lung-related diseases – primarily lung cancer, asbestosis, pleurisy, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and pneumonia make receiving an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis tricky.

Misdiagnosis can delay treatment, which means mesothelioma is more likely to progress to an advanced stage, making it even harder to treat. Early diagnosis and intervention can help improve both the patient’s prognosis and well-being. Learn about the five diseases most mistaken for mesothelioma and what steps you can take to ensure an accurate diagnosis. You deserve to be aware of why lung diseases may be misdiagnosed and how to advocate for accurate treatment.

1) The Difference Between Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma and lung cancer are two distinct types of cancer that affect certain parts of the respiratory system. They share some similarities regarding symptoms, making them difficult to differentiate between. Both diseases cause respiratory systems and can be associated with a history of asbestos exposure, making them difficult to differentiate between. However, there are important differences to be aware of. Lung cancer originates in the lung tissue itself, while mesothelioma primarily affects the mesothelial lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart.

Lung cancer is primarily caused by smoking and exposure to environmental carcinogens. Mesothelioma, on the other hand, is only linked to past asbestos exposure, through which asbestos fibers become stuck in the mesothelium. The primary tool for diagnosis of lung diseases are X-rays or CT scans, which may not always accurately diagnose specific types of cancer. Since the cell structure of mesothelioma is similar to that of other lung cancers, misdiagnosis may occur. Since mesothelioma is so rare compared to lung cancer, if a medical expert is not well aware of mesothelioma, they may diagnose it as lung cancer instead.

2) Asbestosis Symptoms vs. Mesothelioma Symptoms

Asbestosis and mesothelioma are both diseases resulting from asbestos exposure, but they are distinct in terms of their nature, causes, symptoms, and outcomes. Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease characterized by scarring of the lung tissue. It is a non-cancerous disease that primarily affects the lung’s ability to expand and contract, which causes breathing difficulty in patients. On the other hand, mesothelioma is a type of cancer that primarily affects the mesothelial lining of organs and involves the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. A diagnosis for asbestosis is often made through clinical evaluation, pulmonary function tests, and radiological imaging. Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis typically involves more extensive testing, such as biopsies and specialized imaging.

3) Pleurisy vs. Mesothelioma

Pleurisy, also known as pleuritis, is a medical condition that involves inflammation of the pleura – the thin membrane that surrounds the lungs and the inside of the chest cavity. Pleurisy is caused when the two layers of the pleura become inflamed and rub against each other, which results in chest pain when breathing. Mesothelioma and pleurisy share similar symptoms, such as chest pain, breathing difficulties, and shortness of breath. However, pleurisy differs from mesothelioma as it is a non-cancerous disease. Pleurisy can be caused by various factors, such as infection or injury, whereas mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. A mesothelioma diagnosis requires more specialized testing than pleurisy does and results in more severe treatment, like chemotherapy, and a poorer prognosis.

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4) Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Mesothelioma – What’s the Difference?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a chronic lung disease that includes two major conditions – chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis involves long-term bronchi inflammation and is common among smokers. Emphysema is a condition that develops over time and involves the gradual damage of lung tissue. COPD, comprised of these conditions, involves long-term airway inflammation and damage to the air sacs, making it difficult for the lungs to expel air. COPD and mesothelioma can lead to respiratory issues such as chest discomfort, persistent cough, and shortness of breath. Smoking is the primary risk factor for developing COPD, whereas asbestos exposure is what causes mesothelioma.

COPD is a progressive and chronic lung disease, but unlike mesothelioma, it is not a type of cancer. When seeking a COPD diagnosis, genetic factors may leave an individual pre-disposed to developing the disease. The progression of COPD can be slowed with appropriate treatment and an early diagnosis. Mesothelioma differentiates in that it is an aggressive cancer with a typically poor prognosis. Due to the rarity of mesothelioma and the commonality of COPD, some healthcare providers may be more accustomed to seeing COPD cases and won’t immediately consider mesothelioma.

5) How Pneumonia Can Be Confused with Mesothelioma

Pneumonia is an inflammatory lung condition that affects the lung’s air sacs. The air sacs facilitate the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide and are essential to proper lung function. Pneumonia may be caused by various factors, such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi, which cause lung inflammation and accumulation of fluid. Mesothelioma and pneumonia share symptoms such as respiratory issues, difficulty breathing, and chest pain because of how the diseases affect the lungs.

Unlike mesothelioma, pneumonia can be treated and resolved with appropriate medical care. There is no known cure for mesothelioma, and given its usual late stage of diagnosis, mesothelioma has a shorter life expectancy. Comparatively, pneumonia is usually an acute and treatable infection, while mesothelioma is a chronic, aggressive cancer primarily resulting from asbestos exposure.

Getting a Second Opinion for a Lung Disease

Many lung diseases have similar symptoms, making them hard to diagnose accurately. Living with a lung disease is stressful enough without having to worry about misdiagnosis or receiving inaccurate treatment. Getting a second opinion from a doctor is one way to advocate for a correct diagnosis to help provide peace of mind. A second opinion can provide you with more information about your disease and either confirm or deny the initial diagnosis. Undergoing additional tests can help when considering alternative diagnoses, ruling out unlikely conditions, and avoiding misdiagnosis.

Seeking a second opinion will typically require getting a referral from your current doctor and ensuring your health insurance will cover the charge. You will need to gather any relevant results and health information to present to your second medical consultant. When it comes to lung-related diseases, especially cancerous ones like lung cancer and mesothelioma, early diagnosis is crucial. Seeking an early and accurate diagnosis can allow you to start appropriate treatment as early as possible and improve both your prognosis and quality of life. If you’re experiencing respiratory symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek medical center help – and a second opinion.

Last updated on January 15th, 2024 at 05:32 pm

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