After making a mesothelioma diagnosis, doctors need to know the extent of the patient’s cancer, specifically how much cancer there is and where it is located in the body. This process is also known as staging. There are four mesothelioma stages, ranging from stage 1 (early stage) to stage 4 (late stage). Knowing the stage of mesothelioma helps doctors develop the most effective treatment plan as well as overall prognosis or chance of being cured.
What Are Mesothelioma Stages?
Once a patient has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, doctors will attempt to determine how far their cancer has spread and how best to treat it through a process called cancer staging.
The stages of mesothelioma, ranging from stage 1 to stage 4, describes the extent of cancer spread in the body. Stage 1 is the earliest malignant mesothelioma stage with the least cancer spread, while stage 4 is the most advanced.
Each patient’s mesothelioma may behave in unique ways, but according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), similarly-staged mesothelioma tends to have a similar outlook and is often treated using the same methods.
Quick Facts About Mesothelioma Stages
- In the United States and many other countries, mesothelioma is staged using the Tumor Node Metastasis (TNM) System — a system used to stage nearly every type of solid tumor cancer.
- Pleural mesothelioma is the only type of mesothelioma that has been officially staged.
- Although it has no official staging, peritoneal mesothelioma is sometimes unofficially staged to help patients understand their disease outlook.
Pleural Mesothelioma Stages
According to the ACS, pleural mesothelioma patients make up roughly 80% of all mesothelioma cases. It is the only type of mesothelioma that has been well-researched enough to be officially staged.
- Remains on one side of the chest in the lining of the chest wall
- Pleura may be cancer-free
- May have spread to the pleura
- In lining of the chest wall and the lymph nodes on one side of the body
- May have also spread to the diaphragm and lungs
- Has not reached distant parts of the body
- Has spread past pleura into the deeper tissues
- May have reached areas such as the abdominal lining or spine
- May have spread to both sides of the body
- Has spread to the lymph nodes
- Has not reached distant parts of the body
- May or may not have grown into nearby tissues
- May or may not have spread to nearby lymph nodes
- Has spread to distant organs
This staging helps mesothelioma patients understand what to expect as their disease progresses and helps doctors create the most effective treatment plan for their patients.
Stage 1 Pleural Mesothelioma
Stage 1 mesothelioma is the earliest point in mesothelioma’s development. During this stage, the cancer has not spread very far.
Stage 1 has 2 sub-stages:
- Stage 1A: Mesothelioma remains in the pleura on one side of the chest cavity and may or may not have begun growing into the tissues of the lung or diaphragm. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.
- Stage 1B: Mesothelioma has grown into nearby tissues such as the lung and chest wall, but it remains on one side of the chest. The cancer still has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.
Stage 1 patients have the best prognosis and are usually good candidates for curative treatments such as surgery.
Stage 2 Pleural Mesothelioma
Stage 2 describes cancer that is still contained to one side of the body but has spread outside the pleura, into deeper tissues and nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 2 is still considered an early stage of mesothelioma when most curative surgeries can still be performed.
Stage 3 Pleural Mesothelioma
During stage 3, cancer has either spread deeper into surrounding tissues, spread to more lymph nodes, or both.
Stage 3 mesothelioma has 2 sub-stages:
- 3A: Mesothelioma has grown into nearby tissues and has invaded some tissues on the other side of the chest. It has only spread to lymph nodes on the side of the body where the main tumor originated. It has not spread to distant body parts.
- 3B: Mesothelioma either has spread to lymph nodes on the other side of the body or it has grown so deep into surrounding tissues that it can no longer be surgically removed. Regardless, it has not spread to distant parts of the body.
At this stage of mesothelioma, some patients may still be able to undergo curative treatments. However, doctors will likely recommend treatments to potentially control the cancer and help manage symptoms (palliative care).
Stage 4 Pleural Mesothelioma
The most advanced stage of mesothelioma is stage 4 mesothelioma. It marks the point when cancer cells have metastasized, traveling through the lymph nodes or blood vessels and taking root in distant parts of the body.
Even if the main tumor remains fairly small and mesothelioma has not reached the lymph nodes, it is considered stage 4 if metastasis has occurred.
At this stage, curative surgeries are nearly always unavailable to mesothelioma patients since the cancer is nearly impossible to completely remove. However, palliative treatments to potentially control the cancer and relieve symptoms may still improve a patient’s quality of life.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Stages
There is no officially recognized staging system for peritoneal mesothelioma. This mesothelioma type makes up less than 10% of all cases,, so research on how it progresses is not as plentiful as it is for pleural mesothelioma.
Peritoneal mesothelioma also presents staging challenges because it advances in an unusual way, often remaining in the abdomen instead of spreading to other parts of the body.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Stages
Pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare form of mesothelioma. As a result, there is not enough known about the disease to properly stage it.
The disease may, instead, be described as localized, regional, or distant using the SEER staging system. Doctors may also simply determine whether the cancer can be surgically removed and/or if it has spread to other parts of the body.
Testicular Mesothelioma Stages
Testicular mesothelioma is extremely rare, so, like pericardial mesothelioma, it has no official staging system.
Doctors may look at whether or not a patient’s mesothelioma has metastasized to determine the individual’s outlook.
An important factor in determining a patient’s cancer outlook and treatment plan depends on which stage the cancer is in.
Most patients are diagnosed at a later mesothelioma stage, but as emerging treatment options like targeted therapy continue to improve and become available to more people, patients at all stages of mesothelioma may look forward to longer, healthier lives.
Easier Than It May Seem
Your individual situation may merit an actual lawsuit. However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Trusts have been set up to benefit victims of mesothelioma in such a way that lawsuits and court appearances aren’t needed. Contact us today and you’ll see how easy it can be to get the compensation you deserve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can file a mesothelioma claim?
A person who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma – as well as their spouse, child, or family member – may be able to file a claim to recover compensation from manufacturers of asbestos products. If the mesothelioma patient passes away, a family member or estate representative may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
How much money is in the asbestos trust fund?
An estimated $30 billion has been set aside in asbestos trust funds to compensate mesothelioma patients. Many companies that made asbestos products later filed for bankruptcy, so they created these trust funds to pay out future mesothelioma claims. If the company responsible for your asbestos exposure no longer exists, you may be entitled to money from their trust fund.
How do I file a mesothelioma claim?
To file a mesothelioma claim, contact an attorney who is experienced with these types of lawsuits. They will know where and when to file your claim, how to build the strongest case possible, and the best way to maximize compensation on your behalf.
What is the statute of limitations on mesothelioma claims?
The statute of limitations (deadline to file) for mesothelioma claims will vary depending on the state in which you file. In many states, it’s 2-3 years from the date of the mesothelioma diagnosis – though it may be longer if the mesothelioma patient has passed away. A mesothelioma lawyer can make sure your claim is filed within the required time frame.
How long do mesothelioma claims take?
Every mesothelioma claim is different, with circumstances and factors that are unique to that mesothelioma patient’s story. Though there’s no way to predict exactly how long a claim will take, an experienced mesothelioma attorney will ensure the process is handled as efficiently as possible.
Many claimants start to receive compensation in as few as 90 days after settling their mesothelioma claims.
What is the average payout for mesothelioma?
There is no guarantee of compensation when you file a mesothelioma claim, and countless factors affect how much money you might be able to recover (assuming your case settles). That said, 95% of these lawsuits are settled out of court, and the average settlement amount is $1-1.4 million.
How much is my mesothelioma claim worth?
Your mesothelioma case value depends on the specifics of your situation, such as the duration of your asbestos exposure, and the total cost of your mesothelioma treatment (as well as travel expenses and other related losses). The best way to figure out how much your claim is worth is to speak with a mesothelioma lawyer.
What type of mesothelioma claim do I have?
Most mesothelioma claims fall under one of four categories:
- Personal injury: You were exposed to asbestos (often through your job, or your loved one’s), so you file a lawsuit against the company that made the asbestos products.
- Asbestos trust fund: Similar to a personal injury claim, only the company in question went bankrupt, so you can’t sue them – but you may be able to access a trust fund they set aside for mesothelioma victims.
- Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits: U.S. military veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service may qualify for related health care benefits through the VA.
- Wrongful death: When a mesothelioma patient passes away, their family member or estate representative may be able to file a lawsuit on their behalf, seeking money to pay for past medical expenses, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, etc.
A mesothelioma attorney can determine which type of claim makes the most sense for you and your family. (Some clients qualify for more than one.)