Stages Of Mesothelioma

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Once mesothelioma has been diagnosed, it is important to know whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body before a doctor can implement a treatment plan. Whether or not it has spread, and if so, to which parts of the body all affect how the doctor will go about surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This is determined by a process known as staging, which is based on the results of biopsies, imaging tests such as CT scans, and physical examinations.

Staging only exists for pleural mesothelioma the type of mesothelioma that affects the thin body cavity that surrounds the lungs known as the pleura. This is because it is the most common form of mesothelioma, and is therefore the most heavily researched and studied.

The staging system most commonly used by doctors to give a prognosis for mesothelioma is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM staging system. The 'T' stands for tumor and describes how much the primary tumor has spread, 'N' indicates how much the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, and 'M' describes how much the cancer has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body.

Each of these letters are assigned a number that corresponds to the severity of the spread in each of the regions. For example, T1 mesothelioma would correspond to a small tumor only on the pleura, while T4 mesothelioma means a large tumor that has grown into the . N0 would mean that there has been no spread of the cancer to the lymph nodes, while N3 means the cancer has spread to lymph nodes as far as the collar bone on both sides of the body. M0 means there has been no spread to distant areas, while M1 means the cancer has spread to other organs, most commonly the lungs or the pleura on the other side of the body.

The patient is then assigned a stage number from I to IV based on the T, N, and M categories they fall into. The lower the stage number, the better the prognosis, and the longer the patient has to live.

Stage I: The cancer exists in either the right or left pleural lining. There has been no spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. Stage I mesothelioma is usually resectable, meaning that surgery can remove the tumor. Some microscopic cancer cells are usually left behind after the surgery, so chemotherapy and radiation therapy are sometimes advised

Stage II: The cancer has grown into a much larger area of the pleural lining or has grown into the lung itself. There has been no spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. The cancer may still be resectable.

Stage III: The cancer may have grown into the lungs, the chest wall, or the outer covering layer of the heart. It may have also spread to the lymph nodes in the chest on the same side as the tumor, but it has not yet spread to distant organs. There is a small chance that the tumor is resectable.

Stage IV: The tumor has grown into the deeper layers of the chest and/or it has spread to the lymph nodes in the collarbone and/or it has metastasized to distant organs. The cancer has spread too much to be resectable.

Younger age, being able to perform normal daily tasks, not having chest pain or weight loss can all effect a patients prognosis. Survival time for mesothelioma is usually short as compared to other cancers, with an average between 4 and 18 months. As with any cancer, early detection and treatment are critical for a better prognosis.


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