Understanding Stage 4 Pleural Mesothelioma
When doctors diagnose mesothelioma, they make it a priority to let their patients know what to expect. Part of this is determining how much the mesothelioma has spread. This is done by staging the disease, with stage 1 being the least advanced to stage 4 being the most advanced.
Although stage 4 has the worst prognosis, treatments can relieve symptoms so that patients can enjoy a life without pain.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Definition
Stage 4 mesothelioma is characterized by the advanced spreading of mesothelioma from the area where it began to the other parts of the body.
There are several areas that mesothelioma can spread to in stage 4, including:
- The pleura on the other side of the chest
- The chest wall and into the muscles and ribs
- The chest organs
- The diaphragm and peritoneum (abdominal covering)
- The inner layer of the pericardium (heart covering)
- The spine
- The lymph nodes on the other side of the chest
- The collarbone
- Distant sites such as the brain, thyroid or prostate
Stage 4 Symptoms
Stage 4 mesothelioma symptoms are the most severe of all the stages. By stage 4 tumors have spread so extensively that they cause additional complications.
Common stage 4 mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty swallowing
- Coughing up blood
- Severe pain across the chest
- Abdominal swelling
- Fluid buildup in the chest and abdomen
- Sweating and fever
- Weight loss
Stage 4 Treatments
Stage 4 treatments do not typically include surgery because they put the patient’s health at risk and may not be effective. Instead, the recommended treatment plan for stage 4 mesothelioma centers on palliative care. Palliative therapies make the patient feel as comfortable as possible in order to improve their quality of life.
Palliative treatments include surgeries that drain fluid and alleviate swelling in the chest and abdomen. These surgical procedures help patients to breathe better and reduce tightening in the chest.
Chemotherapy is another important treatment for reducing the painful symptoms of stage 4 mesothelioma. Chemotherapy helps to shrink tumors. This can allow patients to live longer because it prevents the mesothelioma from spreading.
While palliative treatments are mostly intended to improve quality of life, they can also extend life expectancy in certain cases.
Clinical trials are also available specifically for late-stage patients. These provide patients with emerging treatments that possibly have stronger pain-relieving effects than standard palliative therapies for stage 4 mesothelioma.
Stage 4 Prognosis
The prognosis for stage 4 mesothelioma is the poorest of all stages because it is the least treatable stage. Due to the aggressive nature of stage 4 mesothelioma, the survival rates are between 4 and 12 months after diagnosis.
Despite the poor prognosis, many options exist to help patients improve their lives. Treating stage 4 mesothelioma is all about helping patients enjoy their life in comfort. Talk to your health care team about the best treatment options for you.