Localized vs. Advanced Stages of Pleural Mesothelioma
When comparing stage 1 pleural mesothelioma to its later stages, the primary difference is how much the mesothelioma has spread. Stage 1 is still considered localized, meaning the tumor is contained to the part of the body where it started. With pleural mesothelioma, this means it’s contained in one of the layers of the pleura, the thin, doubled-lined layer that covers and protects the chest cavity.
In the more advanced stages of mesothelioma, the tumors spread to other parts of the body.
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Definition
No metastasis (spreading) occurs in stage 1 pleural mesothelioma cases. This makes it the easiest of the four stages to manage, because the mesothelioma remains in the pleura. However, some staging systems may also classify stage 1 as having spread to the lining between the lungs or the lining of the diaphragm.
If you are diagnosed with stage 1 pleural mesothelioma, your prognosis is considered most favorable because there are more treatment options available.
Stage 1 of pleural mesothelioma has two substages: Stage 1A and stage 1B.
In stage 1A, the mesothelioma stays in the outer layer of the pleura, around one lung on one side of the chest. This outer layer is called the parietal pleura.
In stage 1B, the mesothelioma enters the inner layer of the pleura, in one lung. This inner layer is called the visceral pleura.
Stage 1 Symptoms
Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma symptoms are subtle and often confused with pneumonia or other respiratory conditions.
Some general symptoms of stage 1 pleural mesothelioma include:
- Tightness of the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Body aches
Pleural mesothelioma is rarely diagnosed at stage 1 because the symptoms are not always obvious. This is because the tumor hasn’t spread yet, so the more severe symptoms haven’t started.
Stage 1 Treatments
Diagnosis at stage 1 pleural mesothelioma provides patients with the most treatments options, including surgery. Because the tumor has not metastasized yet, surgeons can act before the tumor spreads.
Stage 1 mesothelioma patients may undergo one of two types of surgery: pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) or an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). With a P/D, surgeons remove the lung lining and the visible tumor. With EPP, doctors remove the lung, heart lining, a portion of the diaphragm and the nearby lymph nodes as a preventative measure.
Doctors often follow these surgical procedures with chemotherapy or radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Stage 1 Prognosis
Patients diagnosed with stage 1 pleural mesothelioma have a good prognosis, meaning they have a longer life expectancy based on higher survival rates. Catching the disease in its earliest stage allows doctors to provide treatments which can greatly extend your lifespan.
Studies show that patients who receive surgery during stage 1 of pleural mesothelioma have survival rates between 10 and 24 months, although some patients have survived much longer.
Treatments at any stage can improve life expectancy and quality of life. Talk to your health care team about what you can do to improve your prognosis, including seeking a second opinion and participating in clinical trials.