Mesothelioma cancer is a type of cancer caused by asbestos fibers and forms in the lungs, abdomen, or heart lining. Unfortunately, asbestos is an ingredient in several products, which is a leading cause of this cancer. However, it took people several decades to identify the link between asbestos and mesothelioma. The fundamental issue with mesothelioma is the long latency periods.
The cancer is small in the beginning. Often, individuals who have breathed in asbestos do not show symptoms until several decades. And by then, it is usually too late to save the patient. Cancer staging is crucial for the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. Experts use samples to grade tumors and differentiate steps. After that, oncologists use the results to determine the stage and recommend treatment options. There are four stages of mesothelioma. In the beginning, the tumor is limited to a small area. Then, it slowly spreads to the rest of the body.
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Stage 1 of Pleural Mesothelioma
In the early stage, pleural mesothelioma is present in the lining of the lungs. The growth starts to form on the pleura. It does not spread more, and life expectancy is better in the first stage. However, diagnosis is challenging because, at this stage, pleural mesothelioma symptoms are usually vague that mimic symptoms of other illnesses. The tumors are too small to cause any problems in breathing. Doctors treat patients suffering from Stage 1 mesothelioma with multimodal therapy. Because the cancer is in an early stage, patients have a better chance of living longer. Most patients live for more than 22.2 months after stage 1.
Stage 2 of Pleural Mesothelioma
Prognosis is favorable in the second stage of mesothelioma. But, patients experience noticeable symptoms, and they have several treatment options. The tumor begins to spread from the original spot. Symptoms in stage 2 are difficulty in breathing or mild coughs. Therefore, people mix it with the common cold. Patients lose weight or feel bloated. But, symptoms do not usually appear in stage 2.
The tumor spreads from the lining to the lymph nodes. Fortunately, tumors are small in the second stage. So, doctors can remove them through surgeries. Patients respond well to aggressive treatment, often for three to five years after diagnosis. Pleural mesothelioma patients who receive surgery have a median life expectancy of 20 months
Stage 3 of Pleural Mesothelioma
Symptoms are worse in the third stage of mesothelioma. The tumor spreads to other areas of the pleura. Furthermore, there are limited treatment options for patients of stage 3 pleural mesothelioma than earlier stages. However, aggressive intervention can improve the chances of survival.
In stage 3, cancer spreads to several tissues and organs of the body. Patients can opt for sudrgery, depending on the size of the tumor. Most patients experience difficulty breathing, dry cough, and chest pain. Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma may also develop problems with indigestion. They often complain of abdominal pain and bloating. Both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma patients suffer from weight loss and night sweats.
Doctors treat patients with stage 3 mesothelioma with chemotherapy, as the cancer is too advanced for surgery. Since patients experience severe pain, doctors prescribe palliative medicine to improve their quality of life. Several clinical tests are using new drugs and immunotherapies to treat mesothelioma. Patients can join the trials to increase life expectancy. Patients who qualify for surgery can live for a few years with mesothelioma. But, the average life expectancy is 17.9 months after surgery.
Stage 4 of Pleural Mesothelioma
The fourth stage of mesothelioma involves the spread of cancer to multiple areas of the body. Most patients can only hope for palliative care to reduce the severity of the common diseases. At this stage, tumors encapsulate most of the lung. Therefore, doctors do not recommend surgery at this stage. However, patients can opt for minimally invasive surgery.
Unlike other types of cancer, pleural mesothelioma grows locally. It may spread to the body cavity where it first appeared. Patients with stage 4 pleural mesothelioma may experience symptoms, including difficulty breathing, chest pain, and swelling in the abdomen. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, muscle weakness, fever, and nerve pain.
Stage 4 mesothelioma treatment plans include chemotherapy and palliative care. Since stage 4 mesothelioma is fatal, patients can only hope to extend survival. Mesothelioma has no cure. Doctors call stage 4 mesothelioma end-stage cancer. It is the most advanced form of mesothelioma. But, patients have seen improvement in diagnosis. Life expectancy is less than a year. However, immunotherapy and chemotherapy can extend life expectancy by a few months.
Why is Staging Vital for Mesothelioma?
Staging is the fundamental factor doctors consider when developing a treatment plan. Oncologists also take into account the age and health of the patient. All of these factors determine the treatment options. For example, patients suffering from stage 1 and stage 2 mesothelioma tumors can opt for surgery because the tumors are small. They can use immunotherapy to improve their chances of survival. Staging can help doctors estimate the likelihood of success. Usually, an earlier mesothelioma stage results in a better prognosis and chances of survival.
Mesothelioma is a devastating disease. Sadly, patients suffering from mesothelioma develop symptoms decades later. Unfortunately, by that time, cancer spreads to other tissues. Therefore, patients cannot opt for surgery. Patients suffering from mesothelioma do not have to suffer in silence. Most mesothelioma patients develop cancer because they worked in hazardous conditions. Patients may file for an asbestos claim against their former employers to help them with treatment costs.