There are four primary mesothelioma stages. Mesothelioma staging identifies how serious the cancer is and helps with diagnosis. There are four stages, the lower the stage the more treatment options are available and the higher the chances of survival. Staging describes how advanced the disease is, prevalence of tumors and how far the cancer has spread. Staging is a key part of the diagnosis and treatment process.
Mesothelioma staging is of great importance as it sets out the direction or route of treatment and treatment options. For example, doctors use a patient’s cancer stage as a guide in determining if the patient would benefit from surgery or not.
There are three mesothelioma staging systems:
These staging systems are primarily used for pleural mesothelioma. Each of these mesothelioma staging systems will be discussed in the next three consecutive articles.
Primary mesothelioma staging
The four primary mesothelioma stages are as below:
In stage I tumors are close to the original or initial tumor. Life expectancy at stage I is better than at any other stage. Patients may live for 3 years or longer. Stage I is a difficult stage for diagnosis to be given as there are no symptoms. Treatment is surgery to remove tumors, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to kill the cancer cells.
In stage II symptoms are vague and mild, that they are mistaken for other illnesses. At this stage several treatment options are available to patients. For example; surgery to remove tumors. The average life expectancy is 19 months.
At this stage, the cancer has spread to several locations in the body, e.g. muscles, ribs, chest wall, esophagus and lymph nodes. As a result of the spread to many areas of the body, discomfort is felt in other parts of the body. Surgery is not a common treatment option at this stage and palliative treatments are used. Such treatments as chemotherapy, which helps extend survival. The average life expectancy is 16 months.
30% of all mesothelioma patients are diagnosed at this stage. Tumors have spread throughout the body and can be present in the brain, liver and/or bones. The patient has extreme difficulty breathing and experiences severe chest pain. Doctors at this stage recommend palliative treatment to relieve pain and control symptoms. The average life expectancy is 12 months or less.