While mesothelioma most often affects the lining surround the lungs, it is not technically considered a lung cancer, as it could also affect the lining of the heart or the abdomen. Mesothelioma, which is caused by the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos, is relatively rare. In fact, those exposed to asbestos are at a far greater risk of lung cancer than mesothelioma. Lung cancers are treatable with early detection, whereas mesothelioma has a long latency period that makes early detection incredibly difficult. However, advancements in the early detection of lung cancers may help detect mesothelioma as well.
At the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) 13th Annual International Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference, Dr. Steven Markowitz, MD, PhD, director of the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment at Queens College, City University of New York, spoke to attendees of the benefits of low-dose CT scans as a prevention tool. “Before the days of CT scans and using CT scans for screening, we only accidentally detected a lung cancer at an early stage when it can be cured,” he said to conference attendees.
The second most prevalent form of cancer, lung cancer is responsible for approximately 155,870 deaths each year. Markowitz stressed that no cure for lung cancer exists unless it is detected early. He cited a 2010 National Institutes of Health study that found “a 20 percent reduction in deaths from lung cancer among current or former heavy smokers who were screened with low-dose (CT) versus those screened by chest X-ray.” Research has shown low-dose CT “may at least be as useful in asbestos workers as in heavy smokers for the early diagnosis of lung cancer” and can also be used to detect advanced pleural malignant mesothelioma.