Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis: Diseases Mistaken for Mesothelioma (2024)

Mesothelioma is among the rarest diseases. Many people who are exposed to asbestos, the leading cause of mesothelioma, do not develop this cancer. Due to its rarity and non-specific symptoms, mesothelioma misdiagnosis occurs often. There are diseases mistaken for mesothelioma that you should know about if you believe that you may have this cancer.

Improper diagnosis of mesothelioma or another similar disease can delay essential treatment and worsen the validity of a patient’s prognosis. When you have symptoms associated with mesothelioma, it is wise to seek the counsel of a mesothelioma specialist. These professionals can give you an accurate assessment of whether you have mesothelioma or not.

Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis: Diseases Mistaken for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis: Diseases Mistaken for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma occurs in the mesothelium, the lining of various organs in humans. This cancer is aggressive and incurable. Even though symptoms can be managed, it is difficult to stop mesothelioma from spreading once it starts. Mesothelioma can mimic symptoms of other illnesses, delaying proper treatment if it is misdiagnosed. Here are some common diseases that can be mistaken for mesothelioma:

Lung Cancer

Both lung cancer and mesothelioma can take an immense toll on the body. They can look similar, causing shortness of breath, chest pain, and chronic coughing. The key difference is that lung cancer is much more prevalent than mesothelioma. Additionally, lung cancer patients can experience symptoms that are infrequent in mesothelioma patients, like hemoptysis or coughing up blood.

Chest X-rays and CT scans can help distinguish between these two cancers. A definitive diagnosis often relies on a biopsy.

Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion refers to the building up of liquid between the lungs and the chest wall. Mesothelioma can cause pleural effusion but is not the only disease or ailment that can do this. Other conditions, like pneumonia, heart failure, and pulmonary embolism, can cause pleural effusion as well. To determine the underlying cause, a doctor can perform thoracentesis to analyze the fluid. Thoracentesis is a procedure where a doctor inserts a needle into your chest cavity to extract the fluid for analysis.


Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It shares similar breathing difficulties with mesothelioma, such as shortness of breath and wheezing. However, since emphysema is often caused by smoking, whereas asbestos exposure is the primary source of mesothelioma, tests can be done to properly distinguish between the two.


Pneumonia is a lung infection that can mimic the symptoms of mesothelioma. This disease can cause fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The difference is that pneumonia develops quickly and comes with chills and mucus-laden coughs. Mesothelioma symptoms tend to develop gradually without a fever. Chest X-rays and sputum cultures can help diagnose pneumonia.

Other Cancers

In rare instances, cancers like ovarian and adenocarcinoma can be confused with mesothelioma. When these cancers spread to the pleura (the lining of the lungs) or the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen), they can convincingly mimic mesothelioma. Reaching an accurate diagnosis may require a detailed medical history, physical examination, CT and PET scans, and biopsies from suspicious tissue.

Why Are These Diseases Mistaken for Mesothelioma?

There are many reasons why medical professionals may misdiagnose mesothelioma, including:

  • Rarity: Mesothelioma is such a rare cancer that many doctors have never encountered it. This rarity can lead to frequent misdiagnosis.
  • Non-Specific Symptoms: The early symptoms of the disease are often vague and confusing for medical professionals.
  • Improper History Investigation: If doctors fail to ask about asbestos exposure, they may not consider mesothelioma as a possible diagnosis.

Suspicion of a Misdiagnosis

It can be rare to have a history of asbestos exposure and receive a diagnosis that shares symptoms with mesothelioma. If this happens to you, you should first discuss your concerns with your doctor. Asking them about the possibility of mesothelioma can alert them to your suspicion, and they can order specific tests to examine that possibility.

After speaking with your doctor, you should seek a second opinion. When possible, gather a complete record of your medical history, along with evidence of asbestos exposure. These materials will be important for your consultation with a mesothelioma or lung cancer specialist. These professionals can ensure that your second opinion comes from an expert in mesothelioma diagnosis.

Lastly, you may be entitled to compensation if you are sure that you received a mesothelioma misdiagnosis. A mesothelioma attorney can help you understand any legal grounds you have for a claim and guide you through the complexities of the claim-filing process.


Q: What Can Be Mistaken for Mesothelioma?

A: Many diagnoses can be mistaken for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a highly rare and complex cancer. Many medical professionals have never seen it and do not understand how it works. A team of doctors familiar with cancers is usually the only group that can accurately diagnose this cancer outside of a certified mesothelioma specialist.

Mesothelioma can be misdiagnosed as:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Gallstones
  • Pneumonia
  • Lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Hernia
  • Influenza
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Emphysema

It is wise to seek a specialist’s opinion if you suspect that you might have mesothelioma, especially if you have a history of asbestos exposure.

Q: What Lung Disease Is Similar to Mesothelioma?

A: Other lung diseases can seem similar to mesothelioma due to similar symptoms. One type of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, can resemble symptoms of pneumonia or emphysema. Because this type of mesothelioma affects the lungs, causing a buildup of fluid and difficulty breathing, it can be mistaken for chronic lung disease, infections, and lung cancer.

Q: Can Emphysema Be Mistaken for Mesothelioma?

A: Yes, emphysema can be mistaken for mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma – a cancer of the pleura, or the lining of the lungs – can be mistaken for emphysema. This form of cancer is rare and comes from breathing in asbestos fibers. The early symptoms of pleural mesothelioma resemble some of the symptoms of emphysema.

Q: How Can You Tell the Difference Between Adenocarcinoma and Mesothelioma?

A: You can tell the difference between adenocarcinoma and mesothelioma by observing the unique characteristics and causes of the different cancer cells. Both of these cancers can come from asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma and adenocarcinoma are cancers that often appear in the lungs, but mesothelioma starts in the mesothelium. Adenocarcinoma typically starts in the cells of the glands found in the lungs and other internal organs.

Contact a Mesothelioma Lawyer If You Have Been Misdiagnosed

Mesothelioma can present itself as other illnesses. This mimicry underscores the importance of seeking immediate medical attention if you believe that you have symptoms. A history of asbestos exposure can heighten the urgency of your situation. An early and accurate diagnosis can help you receive the most effective treatment. Consult a doctor to improve your long-term prognosis.

If you received a misdiagnosis, contact Wallace & Graham immediately. We can guide you through this difficult time.