People who learn they have a type of cancer called malignant Mesothelioma have many questions to ask about managing this disease. Most cancers are categorized according to their stage of growth and development. In early staging, there is less danger and combating the disease is easier. In later stages, things get far more serious and treatments more drastic. With some cases, aggressive treatment methods are used right away. This is common with malignant Mesothelioma, because it can become life-taking quickly. In general, treatments are developed according to staging estimates.

Malignant Mesothelioma

Being diagnosed with malignant Mesothelioma is a serious situation. Not only is this type of cancer very dangerous, it takes an extremely long period of time between exposure to the asbestos materials that cause Mesothelioma and development of symptoms that draw attention to this problem. By the time symptoms are evident, the person afflicted may not have much time left to manage this threat. This type of cancer has a very poor prognosis and is difficult to treat

Asbestos materials were used widely during the mid-20th Century everywhere. This material is so heat resistant that it was incorporated into building materials and used in brakes, clutches, and other products worldwide. Millions of persons were exposed to asbestos products at work and at home. Even more troublesome is that people who were around asbestos could carry asbestos fibers home to infect others.

Tiny particles of asbestos minerals cling to clothing and hair and then are transferred through the air to other people. It is inhaled or ingested and then those particles lodge in the thin linings of critical body parts like the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Once in place, the particles cause inflammation and irritation, creating cancer cells that can cause harm in place and transfer to other areas of the body.

Staging – 4 Phases

There are four basic stages used to assess the growth state of malignant Mesothelioma. A stage is a description of the invasion of the cancer; it is based on results from the patient’s physical exams and tests. An assignment of stage allows doctors to determine how to proceed with treatment and therapy. A formal staging system exists only for Pleural Mesothelioma, the most common type. Estimates for life expectancies are also based on staging, but the actual life expectancy also is affected by other factors.

Stage 1 is localized; Stages 2, 3, and 4 are advanced. Here are the general characteristics of each of the four stages:

  • Stage I – Two subcategories: IA – cancer found in one side of chest – in lining of chest wall and also may be in chest cavity lining between lungs and/or the lining covering the diaphragm. It has not spread to lung cover lining. IB – cancer found in one side of chest – in lining of chest wall and lining covering the lung, and may also be found in lining of the chest cavity between lungs and/or the lining covering the diaphragm.
  • Stage II – Cancer is in one side of the chest, in several lining places – chest wall, chest cavity between lungs, covering the diaphragm and lung. The cancer also has spread into lung tissue and/or diaphragm.
  • Stage III– Cancer is found in one side of chest, in the lining of the chest wall. It may have spread to other linings of chest cavity, diaphragm, and lung or into the lung tissue or diaphragm. It also has spread to lymph nodes. Another stage III event occurs when cancer is found in one side of the chest in the chest wall lining, lining of chest cavity between lungs, lining covering the diaphragm and lining covering the lung. Cancer also has spread to one or more of these locations: tissue between ribs and chest wall lining, fat area between lungs, soft tissues of chest wall or the sac around the heart. It may also have spread to lymph nodes where lung joins bronchus, along trachea and esophagus, between lung and diaphragm, or below trachea.
  • Stage IV – Cancer cannot be surgically removed and is found in one or both sides of the body. It may have spread to lymph nodes in the chest or above the collar bone. Cancer has spread in one or more of these ways: through the diaphragm into the peritoneum tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most abdominal organs – to the tissue lining chest opposite the tumor, to chest wall and rib, into organs in center of chest cavity, to the spine, to the sac around heart or into the heart muscle, or distant body parts including brain, spine, thyroid or prostate.

Staging & Survival Prospects

Although some rather dismal survival rates are published, each case is specific to the patient and those rates may not apply. Current survival prospects are based on data acquired from studies of people from 1999 to 2013, and data revealing that 37,000 people died from Mesothelioma cancer. It is noted that due to the long period before symptoms are apparent, many of those persons were older, and that those aged 65 and up had the shortest life expectancy, while younger persons had a better prospect. Millions of people worked with or were exposed to asbestos materials, so it is expected that the first deaths are just the tip of the iceberg in this situation.

Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment

Survival is, of course, affected by new developments and treatment methods. There are ongoing clinical trials that test new drugs and other aspects of cancer treatment. Younger persons have a better chance of longer survival times, as do those who get aggressive treatments earliest in the progression of this disease. Treatment plans are based on the TNM staging system of the American Joint Committee on Cancer. This system assigns stages according to three main elements:  T – spread of primary tumor, N – spread to lymph nodes, M – if the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other organs.

Typical methods of treatment for malignant Mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery offers the best results for stopping the cancer, but other methods are designed to halt the progression of the disease and kill the cancer cells. There are many new developments that patients can try if they join in a clinical trial. New discoveries are being made every year in this fight against a deadly form of cancer. Treatments offer best results when begun at the earliest staging of malignant Mesothelioma. Discovery of any lumps, soreness, and difficulty with breathing or other symptoms should warrant a trip to the doctor to begin assessment of the condition and possible staging of malignant Mesothelioma.