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Adenocarcinoma and Mesothelioma are two different types of cancers that are commonly caused by exposure to asbestos and also both commonly affect the lungs and surrounding tissue. While the two cancers are related to one other in the sense that they can affect the lung and chest area and both are linked to asbestos exposure, distinguishing between the two is important both medically and legally. In the past, complex diagnostic tools were required to for physicians and specialists to make the often difficult distinction between the two cancers, and in particular to identify the rarer Mesothelioma. However, recent studies from 2005 and 2008, are offering new and more accurate diagnostic tools to aid physicians in making an accurate diagnosis. Given these diagnostic difficulties and the fact that both cancers are linked to asbestos, what really is the difference between the two?

Medically speaking, Adenocarcinoma is a term used generally to describe cancers that begin in cells that line internal organs that have gland-like properties, such as the breasts, colon, prostate, stomach, pancreas, and cervix. Lung Cancer Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of cancer that is found in individuals who have experienced prolonged exposure to asbestos. Although it can affect many different organs including the breasts, colon, prostate, stomach, pancreas, and cervix, in asbestos-related cases, it develops in the lung tissue specifically and obstructs air passages, particularly in the lower lobes the lungs.

Mesothelioma, on the other hand, is a term used generally to describe a tumor—that can be cancerous or non-cancerous—that affects the tissue that lines the chest or abdomen or that surrounds the body’s internal organs. Mesothelioma is an unusual type of cancer that is related to Adenocarcinoma in the sense that, in asbestos-related cases, it is frequently found in the tissues that surround the lungs. Adenocarcinoma affects the lung tissue itself. Symptoms of Mesothelioma might include shortness of breath, pain in the lower back or side of the chest, coughing and weight loss. It is the most dangerous of the asbestos-related diseases because it affects even those individuals who have only low or intermittent levels of exposure to asbestos.

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