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Asbestosis vs. Mesothelioma

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on May 31, 2022

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is known to cause serious health problems in people who are exposed, including cancer. The type of terminal cancer caused by asbestos is known as mesothelioma. However, cancer is not the only risk associated with asbestos. Another potential health problem is asbestosis, which is a noncancerous and nonterminal health condition characterized by permanent scarring in the lungs. Learn the difference between asbestosis and mesothelioma to better understand your diagnosis.

Quick Look: Asbestosis vs. Mesothelioma


  • Both are caused by exposure to asbestos.
  • Both are often not diagnosed until decades after asbestos exposure.
  • Both can cause trouble breathing by affecting the lungs.
  • Both are most often diagnosed in workers who are regularly exposed to asbestos fibers.
  • Both are lifelong conditions with no known cure.


  • Unlike mesothelioma, asbestosis is not cancer.
  • Unlike mesothelioma, asbestosis is not a terminal diagnosis. 
  • Unlike mesothelioma, asbestosis will not spread throughout the body – it is limited to the lungs and respiratory tract.
  • Unlike mesothelioma, you cannot develop asbestosis in parts of the body besides the lungs.

What Is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease connected to a patient’s exposure to asbestos fibers. When exposed to asbestos, most often over an extended period of time, an individual can breathe in these fibers, which can penetrate the lungs deeply. This can result in the body’s immune system attempting to digest the fibers. Ultimately, asbestos fibers can create scar tissue in the lungs. This is known as asbestosis, and it can result in symptoms such as:

  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Persistent cough, possibly with blood
  • Difficulty or trouble breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Hypertension
  • Swelling in the neck or face
  • Clubbing in the fingers or toes
  • Trouble swallowing 
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

Asbestosis is a form of pulmonary fibrosis, meaning that the lung tissues can become thickened and stiff over time due to permanent scarring. This can affect the body in different ways. Asbestosis is not a type of cancer and is not terminal. These are the major ways in which asbestosis differs from mesothelioma. A patient can live for decades with asbestosis, even without treatments.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer connected to asbestos exposure. Like asbestosis, it often begins with asbestos fibers getting lodged in the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) from the patient breathing them in. However, mesothelioma is characterized by scar tissue turning into cancerous tumors that may spread, or metastasize, throughout the body. Pleural mesothelioma, which is the most common type, can result in the following symptoms:

  • Persistent cough
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Clubbing in the fingers and fingernails
  • Lumps beneath the skin of the chest
  • Fever or excessive sweating
  • Fatigue

It is also possible for someone who is exposed to asbestos to develop other types of mesothelioma. This can result in different symptoms according to the area of the body affected. Mesothelioma is a terminal illness with no known cure. A person who is diagnosed with mesothelioma may have a prognosis of six months to several years or longer to live, depending on the stage at the time of diagnosis, treatment options and other factors.

Are You Eligible for Compensation?

Despite their differences, both asbestosis and mesothelioma can give a patient grounds to file a civil lawsuit in New York. Any illness or disease connected to asbestos exposure can make a patient eligible for a monetary recovery from the party at fault for the exposure. This may be the patient’s employer, a property owner or a product manufacturer. 

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with asbestosis or mesothelioma, contact The Williams Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation with a lawyer about your legal rights. You and your family may be entitled to financial compensation.

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