Mesothelioma Stages: Breaking Down the 4 Stages and What Happens At Each Stage

MESOTHELIOMA CANCER

People who have been diagnosed with Mesothelioma have many questions in mind like:

  • What exactly is Mesothelioma?
  • How did I get this disease?
  • What are the treatment options?
  • Will this affect my family members?

If you have these questions in mind and looking for answers, then you are at the right place. Here you will get all the answers related to Mesothelioma.

We will be discussing about what Mesothelioma is, its signs and symptoms, causes, how it is diagnosed, treatment options and the compensations available. After understanding these aspects, we will look into the 4 stages of mesothelioma and its features. We will understand what happens at every stage, its symptoms and every stage treatment option.

So, without further waiting, let’s start.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that arises in the cells called mesothelial cells. Mesothelial cells line the chest cavity and also line the abdomen. The lining in the chest is called the Pleural Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma cells in the abdomen form a layer called the Peritoneal Mesothelioma. On rare occasions, mesothelioma can be found in other parts of the body like the heart. When a lining is formed in the heart, it is called as Pericardial Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos.

What are Mesothelioma Symptoms?

The most common symptom of mesothelioma is abdominal swelling and pain due to ascites (when a fluid is built up in the abdominal cavity). Other symptoms include:

  • coughing up blood,
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing,
  • feeling tired
  • weight loss,
  • persistent hoarseness,
  • chest pain.

These symptoms typically come on slowly.

Mesothelioma Causes

According to the researchers, there are several factors that increase a person’s risk of mesothelioma.

Asbestos exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos not only affects factory personnel working with asbestos, but individuals who live in areas surrounding asbestos emissions. Approximately 5-10 percent of all workers employed long-term in asbestos manufacturing or mining operations die of mesothelioma.

Asbestosis is characterized by dyspnea (labored breathing) on exertion, a nonproductive cough, hypoxemia (insufficient oxygenation of the blood), and decreased lung volume. Progression of the disease may lead to respiratory failure and cardiac complications.

Increased risk is not confined to the individual alone, but there is an extended risk to workers’ families, as asbestos dust is carried on clothes and in hair.

Mesothelioma causes other than asbestos

Causes of mesothelioma other than asbestos are:

  • Tobacco Smoke – Tobacco smoke is a complex mixture of more than 3000 different substances, including the addictive stimulant nicotine, benzene, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and tar. The risk of developing mesothelioma increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, their tar content, the number of years that a person has smoked, and the depth of inhalation into the lungs. Another risk factor is regular exposure to other people’s cigarette smoke.
  • Dietary factors – Dietary factors have been extensively investigated, and experiments have implicated everything from coffee to charcoal broiled meat to peanut butter as possible cause. It also includes having high salt diet.
  • Air pollution – Air pollution has been extensively investigated as a possible cause and it is known that people living in cities larger than 50,000 run a 33 percent high risk of developing mesothelioma than people who live in other areas. Areas with populations exceeding 50,000 tend to have more industry, and air pollutants can have a profound effect in regions such as New Jersey where they are highly concentrated.

Mesothelioma diagnosis

Most mesotheliomas are found when a person visits to a doctor because of its symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath etc. When diagnosing mesothelioma, a medical evaluation of all patients is conducted. The following factors are considered:

  • The assessment of clinical presentation
  • Exposure history – it includes work history, source, intensity, duration, and frequency of exposure
  • Medical history – History of smoking and other conditions
  • Assessment of Physical examination – It focuses on lungs, heart, stomach.
  • Tests like Chest radiography, pulmonary function tests, imaging tests like chest x-ray, computed tomography (CT), Positron emission tomography (PET) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are examined to look for changes that might be the signs of mesothelioma.

According to the doctors, most people with mesothelioma have high levels of substances like fibulin-3 and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs) in their blood. Researchers are studying on how blood test for these substances can help in finding mesothelioma early and how they can be used to monitor the course of the disease in people who have mesothelioma.

Treatments Available

Common Mesothelioma treatment options include:

  • Surgery – Surgery is a treatment of mesothelioma when it has been determined that the tumor is intact and has not metastasized beyond the limits of surgical excision. Surgery is also indicated for benign tumors that could progress into malignant tumors.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a treatment for mesothelioma. Chemotherapy often suppresses a patients immune system because the highly toxic drugs kill many normal body cells. Some experimental therapies aim to limit the destruction to cancer cells – for instance, by coating tiny metal beads with the drug and using a magnetic device to guide them to a tumor. Smaller tumors with rapid growth rates seem to be most responsive to chemotherapy.
  • Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy is another form of treatment for mesothelioma. Radiation therapy is a treatment with radiation. The radiation emitted through the radioactive decay of certain atomic nuclei consists of electromagnetic waves, or sub-atomic particles, or both. Electromagnetic radiation includes radio waves, infrared waves (or heat), visible light, ultraviolet radiation, x-rays, and gamma rays. Radiation therapy is commonly used to eradicate mesothelioma without excessive damage to surrounding tissues. Radiation therapy attacks the malignant cell at the DNA level, disrupting its ability to reproduce.
  • Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy is considered to be an alternative treatment of mesothelioma. It makes use of the unique properties of the immune system. Immunotherapies have a direct cytotoxic effect on cancer cells, initiation or augmentation of the host’s tumor-immune rejection response, and modification of cancer cell susceptibility to the lytic or tumor static effects of the immune system.

Some treatments that have helped people to cope with breathlessness include acupuncture, relaxed breathing, muscle relaxation or sitting near a fan.

Mesothelioma diagnosis can be difficult to cope with. They should

  • Try to learn about mesothelioma to make decision regarding their care
  • Contact a palliative care team
  • Surround themselves with support
  • Seek out other people who are suffering from cancer
  • Plan ahead

Compensation – Mesothelioma settlement

If someone has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, then they should get into contact with the Mesothelioma lawyer to discuss how they can receive monetary compensation. Mesothelioma settlements have reached into millions. When a patient is filing a claim, sometimes it is difficult to estimate how much that person will receive. Compensation varies on the claimant’s diagnosis, medical history, companies sued, where the claim is filed, proof of negligence and other factors.

According to the research, maximum cases are ended in a settlement before reaching the court while some cases go to the court where a verdict is made between the judge or jury. How much money can be expected depends on a number of factors such as will the case be settled or go trial, medical expenses cost, lost wages and other damages that can be secured by a lawsuit.

When it is proved that a person or his/her family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are chances of them receiving a substantial award or settlement of wages.

According to a recent Mealey’s Litigation Report, the average Mesothelioma Trial Award is estimated at $2.4 million. The average Mesothelioma settlement is between $1 million and $1.4 million typically paid by multiple defendants. However, no cases are alike. Over 300 firms filed bankruptcy for the inability to pay the Mesothelioma claim settlement. This shows that why Mesothelioma lawyers are in such high demand.

Now that we discuss what the disease is, it’s time dive right in and discuss comprehensively the Mesothelioma Stages.

STAGES OF MESOTHELIOMA

Mesothelioma can be classified into four stages. Doctors use these four primary stages to determine and describe how advanced the cancer is within the body, how many tumors there are and how far the cancer is spread. These four stages are:

Stage I Mesothelioma –

Stage I mesothelioma is the earliest stage. At this stage, tumors are small and found only on one side of the body. The cancer has yet not spread.

Symptoms

Patients at this stage experience symptoms that are rare or mild such as cough or fever, and which can be confusing with other common illnesses.

Stage I Mesothelioma Symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss

Treatment

Stage I Mesothelioma is the most treatable form of disease. According to the research, people at stage I mesothelioma live between 1.5 years and 3 years. An early diagnosis can be a key to live longer.

Treatment options are specific to patient. A specialist can provide with the best options which can include surgery to remove the tumor and minimize the patients pain and extend the expectancy of the life.

When it comes to surgical treatments, the options can be complicated. The procedures include:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy – this form of surgery involves removal of one lung and part of the chest lining
  • Pleurectomy decortication – This removes membrane coating on and around the lungs
  • Cytoreduction with HIPEC – In this all visible tumors are surgically removed and heated chemotherapy drugs are infused correctly into the abdomen to help kill cancer cells left behind.

Because alone surgery can’t remove all mesothelioma cells traditional chemotherapy or radiation may also be recommended after surgery.

Stage II Mesothelioma

In stage II Mesothelioma, cancer is found in the lining of the chest wall on one side of the body. This lining is called the Pleura. Cancer may also be found in the lining of the lung, diaphragm or the sac that covers the heart. At this stage, cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.

Symptoms

Symptoms of stage II mesothelioma are often mistaken for bad cold or flu. This may delay in in accurate diagnosis. Patients of Stage II Mesothelioma experience the same symptoms as stage 1 including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss

Treatment

Treatment options are specific to patient. A specialist can provide with the best options which can include surgery to remove the tumor and other procedure to minimize the patients pain and extend life expectancy.

Surgical treatments of stage II are similar to stage I. Some of the options can be complicated and invasive. The procedures include:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy – this form of surgery involves removal of one lung and part of the chest lining
  • Pleurectomy decortication – This removes membrane coating on and around the lungs
  • Cytoreduction with HIPEC – In this all visible tumors are surgically removed and heated chemotherapy drugs are infused correctly into the abdomen to help kill cancer cells left behind.

Because alone surgery can’t remove all mesothelioma cells traditional chemotherapy or radiation may also be recommended after surgery.

Stage III Mesothelioma

At Stage III Mesothelioma, the cancer has spread beyond the original tumor site and into lymph nodes. However, it is still contained into one side of the body. Because the symptoms are so severe, it is more common to receive mesothelioma diagnosis in Stage III than during the earlier stages.

Symptoms

Stage III Mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Intense chest pain
  • Fluid in abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A lump may develop in the chest or abdomen

Surgery may still be an option to relieve symptoms and extend the patient’s life. But unfortunately, for stage III mesothelioma patients the cancer has advanced too far to be completely removed.

Treatment

Doctors determine several factors for the best course of treatment like cell type of tumor, extent of growth into the surrounding tissue and the area tumor is located. Surgical options that have been recommended at earlier stages may be recommended at stage 3 to make the patients more comfortable. The procedures may include:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy or Pleurectomy/decortication – Both the procedures involve the removal of some of the linings within the chest and removal of the lung.
  • Cytoreduction with HIPEC is the removal of all visible tumors followed by heated chemotherapy drugs targeted specifically at tissues in the abdomen.

To remove fluid built up around the tumor and relieve pain doctors may recommend additional procedures such as Pleurodesis, a shunt, or placement of a Catheter. These treatments all involve in setting up of a small tube through a small incision to drain fluid either temporarily or long-term solution.

To manage symptoms and slow further growth of cancer, radiation and chemotherapy can also use to treat Stage III mesothelioma.

Stage IV Mesothelioma

It is the most advanced stage of the disease. At this stage, cancer is found on both sides of the body and may have spread to the lymph nodes. Other parts of the body may also develop tumors.

Symptoms

Stage IV Mesothelioma symptoms are similar to stage III mesothelioma including:

  • Intense chest pain
  • Fluid in abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A lump may develop in the chest or abdomen

At stage IV mesothelioma, cancer is very advanced and cannot be surgically removed.

Treatment

Procedures are performed to relieve symptoms. Stage IV surgical treatments may include:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy or Pleurectomy/decortication– Both the procedures involve the removal of some of the linings within the chest and removal of the lung.
  • Cytoreduction with HIPEC is the removal of all visible tumors followed by heated chemotherapy drugs targeted specifically at tissues in the abdomen.

To remove fluid built up around the tumor and relive pain doctors may recommend additional procedures such as Pleurodesis, a shunt, or placement of a Catheter. These treatments all involve in setting up of a small tube through a small incision to drain fluid either temporarily or long-term solution.

To manage symptoms and slow further growth of cancer, radiation and chemotherapy can also be used to treat Stage IV mesothelioma.

At this advanced stage, palliative treatments may be suggested as a way to relieve pain and manage symptoms. The goal of palliative care is to provide patients with the highest quality of life even though there is no cure for mesothelioma.

If a person has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, then they should make sure that they ask their doctor that at which mesothelioma stage they are.

Conclusion

Thus, Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, the heart, or the stomach. It is usually associated with exposure to asbestos. Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath due to fluid around the lung, a swollen abdomen, chest wall pain, cough, feeling tired, and weight loss. The diagnosis of mesothelioma may be suspected based on chest x-ray and CT scan findings. There are four stages of mesothelioma ranging from Stage I being the least advanced to Stage IV being the most advanced. As mesothelioma progresses through its stages, it can spread from one part of the body to another. Determining the stage, helps doctors think treatment options and to find the patients long-term health outlook. Mesothelioma can be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

References:

  • Asbestos: Selected Cancers. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2006.
  • Bartrip, P.W.J. Beyond the factory Gates: Asbestos and Health in Twentieth-Century America. London: Continuum, 2006.
  • Bignold, Leon P. Cancer: Cell Structures, Carcinogens and Genomic Instability. New York: Birkhauser, 2005.
  • Colditz, Graham A. Encyclopedia of Cancer and Society. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2007.
  • Craighead, John E., and A. R. Gibbs. Asbestos and Its Diseases. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • King, Roger, J.B., and Mike W.Robins. Cancer Biology. Harlow, UK, and New York: Pearson/prentice Hall, 2006.
  • Schneider, Andrew, and David McCumber. An Air That Kills: How the Asbestos Poisoning of Libby, Montana, Uncovered a National Scandal. New York: Putnam, 2004.

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