Mesothelioma Stages by Type
Pleural mesothelioma is currently the only mesothelioma type with standardized stages because its prevalence has allowed doctors to find out exactly how the disease progresses and place this progression into expected stages.
Cases of peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma are still too rare to have their own stages. However, doctors continue to study these mesothelioma types to better understand their progression. This helps peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma patients feel empowered by having more information on what to expect.
How Mesothelioma Spreads
Pleural mesothelioma is staged based on the spread of the cancer. All cancers spread in three different ways.
Pleural mesothelioma spreads through:
- Tissue: Cancer spreads from the mesothelium where it started to the tissue of nearby areas.
- Lymph System: Spreads from the mesothelium into nearby lymph nodes located throughout the body such as in the armpits, neck or groin. Once it gets into the lymph nodes, it can spread throughout the body via the lymph vessels.
- Blood: Spreads from the mesothelium to the blood system, which allows it to travel throughout the body.
Through your blood and lymph system, mesothelioma moves from being localized to advanced. Localized is when the cancer remains in the same place where it began. Advanced is when it moves from where it began to other parts of the body.
Pleural Mesothelioma Stages
Knowing what stage pleural mesothelioma is at can help doctors give patients realistic prognoses and recommend the most effective treatments.
Here are the four stages of pleural mesothelioma:
Pleural mesothelioma is still localized in stage 1.
Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma has two sub-stages:
- Stage 1A: Mesothelioma is contained to one side of the lining of the chest wall. It can also appear between the lining of the lungs, the chest wall and/or the lining that covers the diaphragm. It has not yet spread into the lining that covers the lung.
- Stage 1B: Mesothelioma is contained to one side of the lining of the chest wall and the lining that covers the lung.
Pleural mesothelioma is considered advanced in stage 2. Though it’s still only contained to one side, the mesothelioma has begun to metastasize (spread) into both layers of the pleura, the lung tissue and/or diaphragm.
Tumors have begun to attach to the chest wall in stage 3. Tumors may have also spread to the pericardium (heart covering). In stage 3, mesothelioma may have also spread to the lymph nodes on the same side of the chest.
The most advanced stage of pleural mesothelioma is stage 4, where the cancer has spread throughout the body.
The cancer can spread to locations including:
- Into the abdomen
- To the pleura on the other side of the chest
- Through the inner layer of the pericardium
- Into the lymph nodes on either side of the chest
- Above the collarbone
- To other parts of the body
Doctors can surgically remove tumors in stages 1, 2 and possibly 3. By stage 4, it becomes difficult and risky to surgically remove tumors that have metastasized to the chest wall. Chemotherapy and radiation may be used in any of the stages, depending on the case.
Chemotherapy and radiation can help support surgery in early stages and can provide palliative relief in end stages. Regardless of what stage your pleural mesothelioma is at, doctors can provide treatment to improve quality of life and extend life expectancy as much as possible.