By one of the most important characteristics in the diagnosis of a patient affected by mesothelioma is the stage in which cancer is found.
One of the most important characteristics in the diagnosis of a patient affected by mesothelioma is the stage in which the cancer is found. This indicates how advanced the disease is and can impact on many things, from the patient’s treatment plan to the life expectancy of the patient.
As with other types of cancer, mesothelioma is classified in stages I to IV (other systems to classify the stage use different designations, however, the vast majority uses the scale of I, II, III and IV). The lower the number, the less advanced the disease is.
Stage I of mesothelioma cancer
Stage I is the one that presents the best life prognosis for the patient, however, a diagnosis at this stage is extremely rare.
- In a CT Scan, stage I appears as a widening of the pleura. The tumors are small and nodules begin to appear in the part of the pleura that lines the pulmonary cavity.
- With this well-localized stage, cancer has not yet spread to any of the nearby lymph nodes.
Stage I is primarily asymptomatic, with very few symptoms that something is wrong.
Stage II of mesothelioma cancer
In the same way, mesothelioma cancer is diagnosed in its second stage.
- In stage II, the tumors begin to invade the part of the pleura that covers the lung, the diaphragm and the lung as such.
- At this point, the nodules come together to create a single tumor.
The symptoms are very mild and can go unnoticed without interfering with the person’s daily routine. However, several patients in this stage have reported fatigue and mild chest pain.
Stage III mesothelioma cancer
At this stage, the patient already knows that something is not right.
- Stage III tumors have spread to the chest wall, lymph nodes, or the superficial layer of the pericardium.
- CT scans may not be able to identify cancer metastasis (especially those in the pericardium or lymph glands).
The symptoms of stage III are painful and constant. Chronic chest pain, cough, short breathing, and hoarseness are common symptoms at this stage.
Stage IV mesothelioma cancer
Stage IV mesothelioma cancer is the final stage and the most serious of all. It is quite advanced.
- The tumors have already invaded multiple parts of the chest wall, the pericardium, diaphragm or distant organs to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV mesothelioma may not be detected by a CT Scan or PET Scan. Magnetic resonance imaging is the most recommended technique for detecting cancer metastasis.
In this final stage, the symptoms are quite severe. Palliative treatments are usually necessary.
TNM Scale System
To determine the stage of cancer, doctors use an analysis known as TNM (Tumors, Nodules, Metastasis). Each letter represents a different aspect of the disease.
- T (Tumor) indicates the one that is so extensive in the original growth.
- N (Nodules) indicates the modular movement (in case there is one).
- M (Metastasis) indicates scattering around the body.
- Each of these letters is accompanied by a number on a scale from zero to four. The higher the number, the more advanced the factor. If the doctors can not interpret a specific factor, the letter X is assigned. Once the medical team has assigned each of the factors, it can be determined if a patient is in stage I, II, III or IV of mesothelioma.
How does the cancer stage affect the treatment and prognosis of a patient?
The cancer stage is one of the most significant factors in deciding a patient’s treatment options; additionally, this has a correlation with life prognosis. Patients may be candidates for certain therapies based on the cancer stage. In fact, some clinical investigations look for patients with a specific cancer stage.
In the earliest stages (I and II), growth is confined to a single area, aggressive treatment can help improve the patient’s life expectancy. Surgeons may be able to remove the tumor completely; Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can generate quite positive results. With good treatment, the average survival rate for stages I and II can be quite promising.
In stage III, patients have fewer options to potentially cure the disease. Surgery can relieve some of the pressures created by the tumor, however, it is not possible to remove cancer cells. Stage IV is quite resistant to any treatment, as a result, doctors prefer to use palliative techniques.