When you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, one of the most important pieces of information you’ll receive at first is the stage of the disease. The stage refers to how advanced the cancer is and can impact everything from your prognosis to treatment options.
The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health says there are four stages of mesothelioma. At the first stage, the disease is considered to be localized while it’s deemed advanced in stages 2, 3 and 4.
To determine the stage, the American Cancer Society explains on its website that doctors use the TMN staging system. This system looks at three factors.
Tumor: Doctors evaluate the size and placement of the primary tumor.
Nodes: Then, they look to the lymph node system and check for evidence of mesothelioma there.
Metastasized: Finally, physicians determine whether the disease has metastasized. That is, whether it can be found in other organs of the body away from the primary tumor.
Depending on what a doctor finds during his examination of these three factors, a person’s mesothelioma will be placed into one of the following stages.
Those with stage I mesothelioma have the best prognosis because the disease is still localized in one part of the body. At this stage, cancer is not found in the lymph node system nor has it metastasized.
Localized mesothelioma can be further broken down into stage IA and stage IB. For those with mesothelioma, stage IA is the best case scenario as it means the cancer is only in one side of the chest and has not spread to the lining of the lung. Stage IB is also cancer that is on one side of the chest, but it may be in the lining of the lung.
At stage II, mesothelioma has been found in the lining of one side of the chest as well as the lining of the diaphragm, the lining of the chest cavity and the lining of the lungs. It will also have traveled to either the diaphragm or lung tissue by this point.
Stage III mesothelioma fits into one of two scenarios. In the first, the cancer has moved into the lymph node system, a situation which can make it easy for the disease to metastasize.
The other possibility is that there is no cancer in the lymph node system, but it has been found in the soft tissue of the chest wall, the fat in the area between the lungs, the tissue between the ribs and the chest wall lining or the sac around the heart.
In its final stage, mesothelioma has moved into the lymph nodes and may have metastasized. It could be found in both sides of the chest as well in the diaphragm, chest wall, spine, heart muscles or other organs.
Unfortunately, at stage IV, surgery is not an option, and an individual’s prognosis is quite limited.
While the stage is one of the most important initial pieces of information you can receive about your or your loved one’s condition, it’s not the only thing you need to know. Keep an eye on LegalDirect for more information on your treatment options and how to improve your quality of life.