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Stages of Mesothelioma

Similar to other cancers, doctors use 4 stages to describe the extent to which a person’s mesothelioma has progressed and spread throughout his or her body. Stage 1 is the least advanced, while stage 4 is the most advanced.

4 Stages of Mesothelioma

Once you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, your doctor will determine the stage of your disease. This is an important step because your treatment options and prognosis (health outlook) depend on this vital information.

Stage 1

The tumors are small, localized, and are found on 1 side of the chest only. The cancer has not yet spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.The average survival time is 21 months.

Stage 2

Tumors have spread beyond the original location and grown into the lung, diaphragm, or both. The average survival time is 19 months.

Stage 3

The cancer is still limited to 1 side of the body, but it has spread to nearby organs and/or lymph nodes. The average survival time is 16 months.

Stage 4

This is the most advanced stage of mesothelioma. The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body and may now be located in both sides of the body. The average survival time is 12 months.

4 Stages of Mesothelioma

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The earlier the stage, the more options you will have for treatment and the longer your life expectancy will likely be. Pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lungs and is the most common type of the disease, is the only mesothelioma that has a formal staging system.

3 Ways Cancer Spreads in the Body – Metastasis

When cancer spreads from its original location to other parts of the body, it is called metastasis. How does this happen? According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer cells break away from the primary tumor (where they began) and travel through the body’s tissue, the lymph system, or the blood to affect new sites.

  1. Tissue – The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby soft tissue within the body.
  2. Lymph system – The lymph system is a major part of the body’s immune system. This is a network of organs, lymph nodes, lymph ducts, and lymph vessels that make and move lymph, a clear-to-white fluid made up of white blood cells. When the cancer cells get into the lymph system, they travel through the lymph vessels and form a tumor in another part of the body.
  3. Blood – The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.

Staging Your Mesothelioma

Your doctor might use any of the following tests and procedures to determine the stage of your mesothelioma.

Non-invasive Diagnostic Tests

  • Serum mesothelin assay – A blood test that measures blood levels of a protein secreted by certain mesotheliomas. High levels of a protein called osteopontin and certain peptides (amino acids that act as protein building blocks) often indicate mesothelioma.
  • Chest X-ray – This simple test creates a 2-dimensional image that can reveal abnormal thickening of the pleura, fluid, and calcium deposits, and it defines the extent of the tumor within the chest.
  • CT scan (computerized tomography scan) – This procedure defines the extent of tumor and provides more information than a chest X-ray. During this test, the patient lies still on a narrow table while a scanner rotates around him or her, taking multiple pictures. A computer combines these pictures to create one detailed image of the soft tissues inside the body.
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan) – This test can identify whether the tumor has spread to other tissue outside the chest. Patients are injected with a small amount of radioactive material. Any existing cancer cells will absorb the radioactive material more quickly than healthy cells will — and this reaction highlights the area where the cancer is located.
  • MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging scan) – If your CT scan indicated that your cancer has spread into the chest wall, an MRI can be very helpful in providing more detail. Because MRIs identify the amount of damage surrounding a cancerous area, the test is useful in deciding whether surgery is an option.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) – In this procedure, an endoscope is inserted into the body. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. A probe at the end of the endoscope is used to bounce high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs and make echoes.

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