Mesothelioma Cancer Stages
Mesothelioma Cancer Stages, Once a diagnosis has been made by a doctor, it is necessary to determine the stage of the disease. This means to examine the extent of the disease and assess how fast the tumor may be growing. It is important to realize that because pleural mesothelioma is the most common, and it is the only type of mesothelioma that has any type of staging system. Staging is important because depending on the severity of the disease and how far it has spread, doctors will adjust their treatment recommendations accordingly. Doctors use the same information gathered from x-rays, CT scans, and MRI’s to make a judgment regarding the stage or progression of the disease.
Stages of mesothelioma are divided based upon severity. The most common staging system is called the Butchart system. This system divides cases of mesothelioma into four stages based on the size of the tumor. The stages are as follows:
- Mesothelioma is discovered within the pleura, usually to either side of the lungs. Sometimes, there is minor involvement of the lung itself. It can also affect the pericardium (lining around the heart) or the diaphragm (involuntary muscle that controls breathing and separates the chest cavity from the lower abdomen).
- Mesothelioma is more advanced here and can expand into the chest cavity wall, esophagus, lungs, and pericardium. At this stage, the lymph nodes are also starting to be affected.
- As mesothelioma continues to progress, at this stage it can now be found well into the walls of the chest, through the ribs, well into the diaphragm, and into the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity). Lymph nodes continue to be affected, and the nodes beyond the chest cavity are now in danger.
- Mesothelioma has metastasized and found its way through the blood stream to potentially affect any organ that it comes into contact with.
Alternatively, there is a system that was developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). This system, known as the TNM system, is very similar but goes into more depth regarding the cancer’s progression in the tumor itself, the lymph nodes, and the level of metastases. Although this system is more precise, the Butchart system described above is the more commonly used system. Doctors usually communicate with patients and families using the more simple system because it less confusing and easier to comprehend.
Stage one and two victims are possible candidates for surgery and have the best chance of beating the cancer before it spreads. Unfortunately because of the long latency period associated with the disease, most times the diagnosis is made in stage three or four where only chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments are recommended. By the time the cancer reaches the third stage, the cancer tumor is no longer centrally located and that is why chemotherapy is almost always strongly recommended. Chemo therapy has the ability to fight cancer throughout the body and give the victim the best possible chance recovery.
It is important to understand the staging systems because it allows you to better understand the information that your doctor gives you. Staging systems make it easier to recommend treatments that will provide for a less painful experience. Also when determining a prognosis, staging allows both the doctor and patient to come to terms with the severity of the disease and take quick action to ensure that coping with it is as pain-free as possible.