The four stages of mesothelioma describe development of tumors from stage 1, where cancer cells are in one place, to stage 4, where cancer cells have spread throughout chest or abdominal cavity. Prognosis, survival rates and life expectancy decrease as stage number increases.
What Are the Stages of Mesothelioma?
The four stages of mesothelioma begin with stage 1, which is when the tumor has not spread outside of the mesothelial lining. Stage 2 follows with cancer cells spreading to nearby organs and lymph nodes. At stage 3, cancer cells spread to more distant organs. Finally, at stage 4, cancer cells extend beyond chest or abdominal cavity.
Cancer staging is a key part of mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment. Doctors use cancer stage as a guideline when deciding whether a patient is likely to benefit from treatments such as surgery.
The goal of treatment in all mesothelioma stages is to improve quality of life and extend survival.
Because symptoms don’t develop until later mesothelioma stages, most patients are not diagnosed until stages 3 or 4. The cancer’s cell type and patient’s overall health also affect treatment options.
The most common treatment for malignant mesothelioma is chemotherapy. Some patients are diagnosed early enough to qualify for surgery. Surgical procedures are often combined with chemotherapy and radiation to kill more cancer cells. Meanwhile, clinical trials continue testing new treatments such as immunotherapy.
Stages of Mesothelioma
The stages of peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma are based upon the size of tumors and how far they have spread. The location and size of tumors has a direct impact on the symptoms a person may feel.
Tumor size and location also determines whether a person can undergo surgery. Unfortunately, surgery is no longer an option when tumors become too big or spread too far.
People often wonder if they can determine their stage based on their symptoms. Unfortunately, the symptoms of mesothelioma are not strongly correlated with the stages.
One of the reasons mesothelioma tends to be diagnosed in a late stage is the fact that early stages of mesothelioma cause no symptoms. The cancer is small in early stages and does not affect the body the way larger, late-stage tumors do.