What Are The Stages of Mesothelioma?
By: Chris Placitella, Esq.
Nov 30, 2023
Mesothelioma is a particularly deadly form of cancer in which cancer cells populate tissue around the lungs or abdomen. As with other forms of cancer, there are four mesothelioma stages. This article uses information from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and other reputable sources to break down each stage of mesothelioma. We will also take a look at some of the standard modes of mesothelioma treatment.
The Basics of Mesothelioma Stages
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the most common form, and it is the only type with an official mesothelioma staging system. The lining of the lungs and inner lining of the chest wall, where these cancer cells reside, is referred to as the “pleura.” Doctors follow well-defined standards to determine the stage of malignant pleural mesothelioma.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Any particular case of malignant mesothelioma may have several causes. However, medical professionals have identified risk factors that increase the chances of a diagnosis. Asbestos exposure is foremost among them. Asbestos, a term for a group of naturally occurring microscopic fibers, can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors if inhaled, as they lodge themselves in the pleura, causing irritation. In combination with other factors, including genetics and lifestyle, this can occur.
It is worth noting that asbestos, with its thermodynamic properties, was a popular insulant for decades. Many old buildings and appliances still contain asbestos today.
What Are the Four Stages of Mesothelioma?
According to the American Cancer Society, the four stages are as follows:
Stage I is the earliest stage of cancer, further broken down into two types:
- Stage IA, where mesothelioma is in the chest wall pleura on one side of the chest, and/or the pleura coating the diaphragm, the mediastinum, and the lung.
- Stage IIA, where mesothelioma has reached other structures but may still be removed by surgery.
Stage II is where malignant pleural mesothelioma is in the chest wall pleura on one side of the chest, as well as nearby lymph nodes. It may also be in the diaphragm or the lung.
Stage III is where malignant pleural mesothelioma has grown into nearby lymph nodes, with two types:
- Stage IIIA, where it may still be removed with surgery, but it has spread to other structures in nearby places.
- Stage IIIB, where it cannot be completely removed with surgery, and it has grown on adjacent structures.
Stage IV is where mesothelioma has spread to distant structures, including bones, the liver, or the lungs.
What Are the Next Steps After Staging?
Upon receiving a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma, patients have several options. A good doctor will tailor treatment recommendations to a patient’s unique prognosis. In addition to seeking medical treatment, patients may want to consider legal action if they and their medical providers believe they have been exposed to asbestos.
What Treatment Options Exist for Different Stages of Mesothelioma?
Doctors recognize five types of standard treatment options for malignant mesothelioma. These options include:
- Surgery: Surgeons remove as many cancer cells as possible from the body.
- Radiation therapy: Patients undergo high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: Patients take drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells by either killing them outright or preventing them from dividing.
- Immunotherapy: Patients ingest substances that trigger their own immune system to fight against the cancer.
- Targeted therapy: Drugs or other substances identify and attack specific cancer cells. Typically, targeted therapy causes less harm to the body than traditional radiation or chemotherapy.
Every type of treatment poses its own unique risks and benefits. Consult your physician to determine which treatment makes the most sense for your case.
What Does Mesothelioma Surgery Involve?
The thought of undergoing surgery can be frightening for many patients. It’s always good to ask questions beforehand and gather information about the type of surgery you are likely to undergo. Four surgical interventions are commonly used in mesothelioma cases:
- Wide local excision: Surgeons remove the cancer as well as some healthy tissue surrounding it.
- Pleurectomy and decortication: Surgeons remove part of the covering of the lungs, the lining of the chest, and the outside surface of the lungs.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy: One lung is excised, along with part of the chest lining, the lining of the sac around the heart, and the diaphragm.
- Pleurodesis: Chemicals or drugs are used to create a scar between the layers of the pleura, preventing fluid buildup in the pleural cavity.
If cancer remains after surgery, patients may receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy to eliminate remaining cancer cells. However, medical professionals and scientists frequently debate the optimal course of treatment. Some recommend surgery as the first course of action, while others suggest nonsurgical modes of treatment initially. Therefore, it’s important to consult with multiple doctors and carefully weigh the costs and benefits of each treatment modality before committing to any particular sequence of treatments.
What Should I Do After Receiving a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
Everyone responds to their diagnosis differently. If you have been diagnosed, there are many positive steps you can take toward living with this serious illness. For example, you may want to contact your family and close friends to build a knowledgeable and engaged support network. It may also be a good idea to consult several medical professionals and seek second opinions on courses of treatment. In addition to standard treatments, there are numerous alternative treatments, with many innovative methods going through a clinical trial each year.
If you feel there may be a legal dimension to your illness, consider your steps carefully. Litigation can be a time-consuming and emotionally difficult process, but it can result in an easier and more fair outcome for you and your loved ones. This decision must be made on a case-by-case basis.
What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?
Though mesothelioma treatment is possible, patients diagnosed with this disease have a very short life expectancy. The average patient will live for four to eighteen months after initial diagnosis. However, it’s important to note that the average diagnosis occurs at seventy-four years of age, so many patients also suffer from a range of other conditions, some chronic and some acute.
If you have been diagnosed, consider reaching out to a patient advocate. Many people diagnosed with later-stage mesothelioma continue to have active and fulfilling lives. They say that having a good system of support in place is critical to living with malignant mesothelioma.
What Factors Affect Malignant Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?
Staging is only one of the ways doctors determine the likely outlook for a given patient. A number of other factors have been found to lengthen survival times, including:
- The patient’s ability to carry out normal daily tasks
- Sex (on average, women are likely to live longer than men)
- Normal levels of LDH in the blood
- Normal levels of red and white blood cells, as well as platelets
What Legal Procedures Can I Take Following Mesothelioma Staging?
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is a chance that you are the victim of a crime. It is illegal to expose people to asbestos without their knowledge and consent. Even if people are informed that they may be working with asbestos, they must be provided with proper protection. Thus, legal proceedings may be a viable avenue for you to seek compensation for the harms you have suffered.
In addition to seeking damages from an employer, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be justified. According to a study from Stanford University, just 1 percent of doctors are responsible for 33 percent of all malpractice claims. If you have reason to believe that your illness was undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, or if your treatment was not executed properly, you may want to speak to a legal professional about your situation.
Filing Your Mesothelioma Claim Today
If you believe you have been harmed by asbestos exposure, speak with an experienced lawyer about your case. They will be able to evaluate your evidence and help you receive the compensation you deserve.
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