Asbestosis vs Mesothelioma

5 Min Read

For many people, asbestos related injury and illness is something only heard about in the news. Given how common the use of asbestos was in the UK’s building and manufacturing industries, it is alarming that greater emphasis is not placed on the dangers of the substance and the symptoms of the conditions it can cause.

While there are a number of significant differences between asbestosis and mesothelioma, the two illnesses have several key factors in common:

  • Both can only be caused by exposure to asbestos.
  • Both feature a long period of time between contact with asbestos and development of the disease (sometimes several decades).

If you have contracted asbestosis or mesothelioma because somebody wrongfully exposed you to it, you may be able to bring a claim for compensation against that person.

Asbestos can cause a number of other serious conditions including pleural thickening and pleural plaques.

Here is a brief introduction to asbestosis and mesothelioma, two of the more common asbestos related diseases:


Asbestosis is chronic, meaning that it is a long-term condition. It cannot be completely cured and can leave sufferers vulnerable to other serious lung conditions. It is not cancer but can lead to the development of lung cancer, including mesothelioma.


Sufferers of asbestosis may not realise that they have the disease for some time. Asbestosis usually begins with increasing breathlessness, usually when moving but, later, even when at rest. Lung capacity may decrease and the lung tissue itself may become stiffer, all making it more difficult to breathe.

Breathlessness may be accompanied by wheezing or a cough that will not clear up, as well as chest pain and high blood pressure. You may find it difficult to swallow, going off your food and losing weight.

If you have been exposed to a great deal of asbestosis or were in contact with it for a long period of time, you may suffer from fibrosis or scarring of the lungs.

Life expectancy

While life expectancy will vary from patient to patient, one of the points in the asbestosis vs mesothelioma comparison is that people with asbestosis can often survive for some time after diagnosis, sometimes going on to live for many years. However, much depends on how advanced the condition has become.


There is no cure for asbestosis but sufferers can receive what is called ‘palliative’ care to reduce the impact of the symptoms. Oxygen therapy can help with your breathing and physiotherapy can help to clear the lungs. Your doctor may also prescribe painkilling medication and other drugs to help loosen the materials secreted from the lungs.


Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is only caused by exposure to asbestos. It develops in the tissue that surrounds the lungs or abdomen (the stomach area and most of the major internal organs). It can develop both in or around the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) or in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma).


The symptoms of mesothelioma can be similar to those of asbestosis but will depend on whether you have mesothelioma in the lungs or the abdomen. Pleural mesothelioma may lead to shortness of breath and a cough, as well as pain around your chest and difficulty swallowing. Your voice may change, becoming croaky or husky. You may lose a great deal of weight even though your diet and exercise have not changed. Other symptoms include a very high temperature.

Peritoneal mesothelioma (mesothelioma of the abdomen) can also cause weight loss, as well as vomiting and a feeling of sickness. You may lose your appetite and suffer from diarrhoea or constipation and experience swelling or pain around your stomach.

Life expectancy

Another similarity when considering asbestosis vs mesothelioma is that, unfortunately, both conditions are chronic (long-term). While it is possible, in some cases, to cure mesothelioma, this depends very heavily on how far the illness has progressed.

Because the disease has usually progressed considerably by the time it is recognised, life expectancy after diagnosis with mesothelioma is around 12 months in most cases, although some sufferers have been known to survive for longer.


Mesothelioma can be treated in a number of ways, including surgery, radio and chemotherapy or therapies to boost your immune system. Some mesothelioma sufferers with only a short time to live take part in clinical trials of new treatments.
Sadly, however, the outlook for victims of mesothelioma is generally poor. Depending on what kind of life expectancy your doctor gives you, it may be a priority to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible while you receive treatment and seek support from palliative care groups.

Asbestos related illness diagnosis

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer and you know that have been in contact with asbestos at some stage in your life or work, it is important to let your doctor know about your asbestos history. Asbestos related cancer can be misdiagnosed as conventional cancer and, if you are a smoker or have smoked, doctors may put your condition down to your history of smoking.

If you have come into contact with asbestos in the past and are worried, your doctor will be able to help explaining asbestos vs mesothelioma and guide you through the symptoms to look out for.

Making an Asbestos Claim

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness, then you may be able to claim. Contact us and our specialist asbestos solicitors can talk you through your options, discussing what we can do to help.