Once the diagnosis of mesothelioma has been confirmed, the stage of the disease must be evaluated. Special testing, such as CT scans or MRI scans, are used to determine the progression of the disease and help the physician determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Mesothelioma Has Four Stages
Stage 1: A malignant tumor is found in the pleura with or without the involvement of lung tissue, diaphragm tissue, or pericardial tissue. Patients who are diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma have the best possible potential outcome as opposed to patients with more advanced forms of the illness. Early stage tumors also tend to respond better to a variety of treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
Stage 2: A malignant tumor is found in the same location as stage 1, but the lymph nodes in the chest are also involved. Stage 2 patients have a similar outlook as patients with stage 1 mesothelioma. As a result, stage 2 patients are often able to greatly increase their life expectancy through the use of various medical treatments.
Stage 3: A malignant tumor is found to have extended into the wall of the chest, the heart or the ribs, through the diaphragm or into the lining of the abdomen. There may or may not be lymph node involvement. The outcome for stage 3 patients is often influenced by the individual's age as well as general overall health. Individuals with stage 3 mesothelioma who are healthy and who can undergo surgery or other medical treatments are frequently able to increase their life expectancy.
Stage 4: The cancer has traveled through the bloodstream and has spread (metastasized) to other sites in the body. Stage 4 patients are often not eligible for traditional treatment options like surgery. Patients, however, often have other options to treat the pain and discomfort caused by the condition.
How Mesothelioma is Staged
Medical professionals use a variety of methods to determine the exact degree that mesothelioma has spread. Some of the medical procedures that are used include:
- CT scans. These procedures involve the combination of several x-ray images to form a single 3D image of a person's body or the affected area.
- MRI scans. Physicians use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to determine if and how much mesothelioma has spread.
- Positron emission therapy (PET). A PET scan is the best possible method to determine if mesothelioma has spread to other parts of a person's body.
What to Do Next
The treatment options that are available greatly depend on which stage the disease is found to be in. Over the years, advances in medical treatment have greatly increased the life expectancy as well as the quality of life of a mesothelioma patient, but unfortunately, the disease is still fatal. The earlier that mesothelioma is detected, the better the prognosis. When the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body, medical treatment focuses mostly on managing pain and making the patient comfortable in end-of-life care.
The founding attorney of the Throneberry Law Group, Michael Throneberry, has intimate knowledge of mesothelioma from his own personal experiences with the disease. His father-in-law lost his life to mesothelioma in 2004, and has experienced the emotional energy that being a caregiver to someone in the last stages of life brings. Since his father-in-law passed away, Michael has devoted his time and effort into advocating for other victims of asbestos-related diseases and mesothelioma.