In the realm of cancer, staging is a process that involves finding out how advanced a cancer is and how far it has spread in the body. The stage of mesothelioma may directly influence the treatment options available to a patient and his or her overall prognosis, or outlook. To stage mesothelioma, a qualified oncologist will need to consider the results of physical exams, imaging tests and biopsies that were used to diagnose the disease.
Because mesothelioma is such a rare form of cancer, a formal staging system only exists for one type: pleural mesothelioma. This type affects the pleura, the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. Oncologists most often use the TNM staging system of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC), which takes three primary factors into account:
- The characteristics of the primary Tumor (T)
- Whether the cancer has spread to the lymph Nodes (N)
- Whether the cancer has Metastasized, or spread, to other parts of the body (M)
By evaluating a patient’s condition under each of the three categories listed above, an oncologist will be able to determine whether the cancer should be classified as Stage 1, 2, 3 or 4.
The Four Stages of Mesothelioma
There are four recognized stages of pleural mesothelioma:
Stage 1 is the least advanced stage of the disease. The tumor is localized and has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. The cancer is also likely restricted to one side of the pleura, making surgery a potentially viable option.
Stage 2 involves a larger tumor that has possibly begun to infringe upon the lung or diaphragm and may have spread to the lymph nodes. The cancer is likely present in both sides of the pleura, though surgery may still be an option depending on the case.
Stage 3 is slightly more advanced, with the tumor or tumors affecting a larger, though still localized, area of the body. It will have spread to the lymph nodes. Surgery is generally not an option in this stage.
Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of mesothelioma. The cancer will have spread to multiple areas of the body, even the pericardium, esophagus and chest wall. It will have also spread to the lymph nodes and other organs in the body, making surgery a hopeless endeavor because so much of the body is affected.
Once mesothelioma has been properly staged, it will be easier for a doctor to determine what treatment options may be available to a patient and what his or her prognosis may be. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or newer therapies available through clinical trials. Each patient’s prognosis will vary widely depending on their age, overall health and stage of mesothelioma, though the average life expectancy as discussed in medical literature ranges from 4 to 18 months with 5 to 10 percent of patients living 5 years past their diagnoses.
Should I involve a lawyer?
A patient who has been diagnosed with any stage of mesothelioma should consider what steps can be taken to hold asbestos manufacturers or others accountable. A mesothelioma lawsuit may provide a patient with the means to secure monetary damages for medical treatment, which is likely to be extremely expensive. Compensation may also be sought for lost earnings, future loss of wages, pain, suffering and emotional trauma. In some cases, such as those involving former service members or workers, benefits may be available through workers’ compensation or VA claims.
Taking the right approach to a mesothelioma lawsuit may make all the difference in your ability to protect your financial stability and provide for your family when you are gone. Talk to a mesothelioma attorney at Napoli Shkolnik PLLC to see how we can help you; we represent clients across the US in these cases. Contact us today.