Difference Between Malignant Mesothelioma and Adenocarcinoma

Quick Summary

Adenocarcinoma and mesothelioma often present in the lungs. Mesothelioma is described as a workplace cancer while adenocarcinoma can present throughout the body as well as in the lungs.

Mesothelioma vs. Adenocarcinoma Overview

Mesothelioma and adenocarcinoma are both forms of cancer but are significantly different diseases. They each have different causes and prognoses and require vastly different treatment approaches.

Adenocarcinoma is a subtype of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

It usually begins to form in the cells in the glands, which are found in the lungs and some other internal organs. Generally located along the outer edges of the lungs, adenocarcinoma also tends to develop in smaller airways like the bronchioles.

Adenocarcinoma commonly forms in areas such as the:

  • Lungs
  • Prostate
  • Pancreas
  • Breast
  • Colon

Only adenocarcinoma in the lungs is considered lung cancer and makes up about 40% of all lung cancers. Found more often in women, adenocarcinomas comprise most cases of lung cancer in people who have never smoked.

In all cases, patients should quit smoking immediately, as studies show that smokers who quit tend to have a better outcome after a cancer diagnosis than those who don’t.

What Is Adenocarcinoma?

Adenocarcinoma is a lung cancer. Like all cancers, adenocarcinoma occurs when healthy cells turn abnormal and grow out of control in the lungs to form a tumor that will spread to other areas of the body. Found mainly in the outer parts of the lung, adenocarcinoma starts in early versions of cells that normally secrete substances such as mucus.

Adenocarcinoma Update

Lung adenocarcinoma makes up about 40% of all lung cancer cases and typically grows slower than other kinds of lung cancer.

Mainly occurring in former or current smokers, adenocarcinoma is also the most common type of lung cancer reported in non-smokers. More often found in younger people than other types of cancer, it’s also more common in women. Adenocarcinoma grows slower than any other type of lung cancer and is more likely to be found before it has spread.

It is important to start a conversation with your doctor about adenocarcinoma, treatment options, and survival rates since these all vary from patient to patient based on a variety of factors including:

  • Histology (what the cells look like under a microscope)
  • Biomarker profiles (the mutations/characteristics in cancer that allow it to grow)
  • Stage of cancer
  • Location of the tumor(s)
  • Medical history
  • Symptoms
  • Test results

Diagnosing Mesothelioma vs Adenocarcinoma

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be confused with lung cancer, as they have similar sets of symptoms. A history of asbestos exposure is a huge indicator for doctors to look for mesothelioma traits. Most often, doctors identify mesothelioma because of other problems the diseases cause.

Early mesothelioma warning signs include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in mucus that is coughed up from the lungs
  • Swelling of the face or neck veins
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Unexplained loss of appetite or weight loss

During the examination, doctors review medical history and genetics to figure out if more tests should be ordered and deciphered by specialists.

Imaging tests for mesothelioma diagnosis can involve:

  • X-rays
  • Computed tomography (CT/CAT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Bone scan

Adenocarcinoma Symptoms

Symptoms of adenocarcinoma vary depending on the location of the tumor. Doctors looking for the cause of these symptoms will order imaging tests like CT and MRI scans.

Symptoms of adenocarcinoma may include:

  • Coughing up blood or a cough that won’t go away
  • Wheezing or a hoarse voice
  • Shortness of breath and trouble breathing
  • Frequent respiratory tract infections, including bronchitis or pneumonia
  • A pain or ache in the chest, shoulder, or upper back that won’t go away and may get worse with deep breathing
  • Swelling of the veins in the neck and/or the face
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Unusual fatigue

Treating Mesothelioma vs. Adenocarcinoma

Mesothelioma and adenocarcinoma are treated very differently. Treatments depend on disease stage, location, patient health and several other factors specific to the unique diagnosis.

Options for mesothelioma treatment based on specialist recommendations could include:

  • Radiation Therapy: External and internal forms of radiation therapy can be used to treat, shrink or relieve symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy: Drugs that are provided by vein or orally to attack the cancerous cells through the bloodstream to reach cancer anywhere in the body.
  • Surgery: Utilizing surgery to remove cancer or as much of the cancerous growth as possible, depending on the stage presenting.
  • Palliative Treatments: Methods that can also be used to help improve quality of life and relieve symptoms.

There are two main types of treatment options for adenocarcinoma:

  • FDA approved
  • Clinical trials

Approved treatments by the FDA include:

  • Immunotherapy: Works to strengthen the immune system’s ability to fight cancer by training it to recognize cancer cells selectively and kill them.
  • Targeted therapy: A type of therapy that targets cancer cells directly by focusing on the signals and certain parts of cells that cause cancer cells to thrive and grow.
  • Surgery: Utilizing surgery to remove cancer, or as much of the cancerous growth as possible, depending on the stage presenting.
  • Radiation therapy: High-powered energy beams that kill cancer cells. This can be given as the main treatment during early-stage lung adenocarcinoma.
  • Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs given to patients usually in combination with radiation therapy or other drugs for treatment.
  • Angiogenesis inhibitors: Angiogenesis is the process of making new blood vessels to supply the cells with blood as the body grows and develops. This process feeds cancer cells and helps them to spread and grow. Angiogenesis inhibitors help to slow or stop the growth and spread of tumors by stopping the body from making new blood vessels.

Side effects of treatment are common and can be long-term or temporary. Before starting a new treatment, speak to your doctor about what to expect, how to manage certain side effects, and which side effects should be reported immediately.

Getting a Second Opinion on Mesothelioma vs. Adenocarcinoma

Because pleural mesothelioma (mesothelioma in the lung lining) and lung adenocarcinoma closely resemble each other, it’s possible to receive a misdiagnosis of either. That’s why it’s critical to see a mesothelioma specialist for a second opinion.

Before undergoing treatment for mesothelioma, getting a second opinion and advice on treatment options may assist in making sure each treatment recommendation is the best course of action and that any breakthroughs in clinical trials will or will not influence treatment recommendations.

For more information on seeking a second opinion on your diagnosis, contact Mesothelioma Help Now today to speak to our Patient Advocates.

View Author and Sources
Author

Sources
  1. Lungevity, “Lung Adenocarcinoma.” Retrieved from: https://www.lungevity.org/for-patients-caregivers/lung-cancer-101/types-of-lung-cancer/lung-adenocarcinoma Accessed February 11, 2018.
  2. UPMC, “Adenocarcinoma.” Retrieved from: http://www.upmc.com/services/neurosurgery/brain/conditions/brain-tumors/pages/adenocarcinoma.aspx Accessed February 11, 2018.
  3. American Cancer Society, “What is Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer?” Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-small-cell-lung-cancer/about/what-is-non-small-cell-lung-cancer.html Accessed February 12, 2018.
  4. Lungevity, “Signs & Symptoms.” Retrieved from: https://www.lungevity.org/for-patients-caregivers/lung-cancer-101/signs-symptoms Accessed February 12, 2018.

Last modified: May 10, 2018