Mesothelioma Stage 1
Stage 1 is the earliest point in mesothelioma’s development. During this stage, the cancer has not spread beyond the lining of the lungs or abdomen. Stage 1 mesothelioma patients have the best prognosis and are usually good candidates for life-extending surgeries and other treatments. Unfortunately, because symptoms can be vague and gradual in onset, it is very rare to receive a stage 1 diagnosis.
What Is Stage 1 Mesothelioma?
Stage 1 mesothelioma is the earliest of mesothelioma’s four stages. These stages come from the tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging system — a globally recognized method for determining how far a patient’s cancer has spread.
Stage 1 mesothelioma may refer to two types of mesothelioma:
- Pleural mesothelioma: Malignant (cancerous) pleural mesothelioma is the only officially-staged type, using the TNM cancer staging system. At this stage, the cancer is only on one side of the chest and remains in the lining of the lung tissues. It has not yet spread to nearby lymph nodes or to distant parts of the body.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: Peritoneal mesothelioma may also be categorized as stage 1 using a modified TNM staging system proposed by medical professor Tristan D. Yan and his associates. Stage 1 peritoneal mesothelioma has not spread past the lining of the abdomen.
Doctors know too little about pericardial mesothelioma to properly stage it. The disease may, instead, be described as localized, regional, or distant using the older LRD staging system or simply, early or advanced.
How Stage 1 Mesothelioma Develops
Mesothelioma is notorious for its long latency period — the time that passes between being exposed to a cancer-causing substance and when symptoms first appear. After a patient is exposed to asbestos, the main cause of malignant pleural mesothelioma, this latency period lasts about 20-50 years.
Stage 1 develops after asbestos fibers get stuck in the lining of the lungs (pleura) or abdomen (peritoneum). These fibers irritate nearby cells, eventually damaging DNA and triggering out-of-control cell growth. This unchecked growth forms tumors on the lining of the organs.
The TNM staging system describes stage 1 pleural mesothelioma’s development using sub-stages.
Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma has two sub-stages of development:
- Stage 1A Mesothelioma: Stage 1A of the TNM staging system describes a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis in which cancer is only on one side of the chest, remaining only in the thin membrane covering the chest cavity. It has not yet reached the lining of the lungs (the pleura).
- Stage 1B: Stage 1B is slightly more advanced, describing pleural mesothelioma that remains localized to one side of the chest, but which has spread to the pleura as well as the chest wall lining.
As stage 1 mesothelioma develops, it may begin to cause mild symptoms that are still difficult to identify as signs of mesothelioma.
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Symptoms
Many patients do not experience any mesothelioma symptoms during the earliest stage of the disease.
However, some patients may experience the following stage 1 mesothelioma symptoms:
- Dry, persistent cough
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Slight difficulty breathing
Fluid buildup in the chest (pleural effusions) may begin during stage 1, causing the above symptoms. However, these vague, mild symptoms are often mistaken for less serious illnesses such as a cold, flu, pneumonia, or bronchitis.
How to Identify Stage 1 Mesothelioma
Most mesothelioma patients have no symptoms very early into the disease’s progression, making it extremely difficult to identify stage 1 mesothelioma without medical equipment.
Stage 1 mesothelioma is usually discovered by accident in the course of doing tests for another medical issue or as part of regular cancer screening for a high-risk patient.
Patients may greatly increase their chances of catching mesothelioma early by telling their doctor about any asbestos exposure history they may have.
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Doctors rarely make a mesothelioma diagnosis at stage 1 because patients either experience no symptoms or vague symptoms.
Even when someone with mesothelioma happens to get an imaging test done, the small stage 1 mesothelioma tumor may be hard to see.
However, two image scan features may alert doctors to stage 1 mesothelioma:
- Abnormal tissue masses in the chest area
- Pleural effusions
Seeing either of these in a chest X-ray may prompt a mesothelioma doctor to investigate further and perform a biopsy, hopefully leading to an early diagnosis.
When doctors are able to confirm that a patient has mesothelioma, they use a staging system to determine how far the disease has progressed.
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Prognosis
A prognosis describes the likely course the disease will take. As the earliest stage, stage 1 mesothelioma has the best prognosis and the most treatment options.
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Life expectancy describes the average amount of time a patient can expect to live after being diagnosed. Naturally, patients diagnosed during stage 1 have the longest life expectancy by stage.
A 2019 study of 888 pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma patients found the median survival time of stage 1 patients was 20 months compared to 15 months for all 888 patients.
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Survival Rate
A mesothelioma survival rate measures the percentage of people with the disease who survive for a certain amount of years after diagnosis.
As with life expectancy, patients diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma can expect comparatively high survival rates.
Survival Rates for Pleural Mesothelioma by Stage
|Mesothelioma Stage||1-Year Survival Rate||5-Year Survival Rate|
Survival Rates for Peritoneal Mesothelioma by Stage
|Mesothelioma Stage||1-Year Survival Rate||5-Year Survival Rate|
Stage 1 mesothelioma patients live longer, in part, because their early diagnosis allows them to seek critical life-extending treatment that may be unavailable to later-stage patients.
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Treatment
Stage 1 mesothelioma patients are usually good candidates for curative mesothelioma treatments — medical procedures performed to extend a patient’s life.
In general, stage 1 patients are good candidates for mesothelioma surgery. At this stage, surgeons are usually able to completely remove all visible parts of a tumor.
However, many factors may influence whether a patient is a candidate for surgery:
- Stage: Tumors that are relatively small and contained in one area (localized) are more likely able to be surgically removed.
- Cell type: Many doctors believe only epithelioid and mixed/biphasic cell types may be resectable.
- Location: Tumors that form close to vital organs may be too risky to remove through surgery.
- Patient health: Surgery for mesothelioma can be dangerous and incredibly taxing on the body. Even if a patient is diagnosed early, if they are in poor health, surgery may not be offered as it would be unsafe.
Common stage 1 mesothelioma surgery options include:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D)
- Cytoreduction with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)
Although surgery is often effective for stage 1 patients, it may leave behind cancer cells that are not visible to surgeons. These cells quickly re-form tumors. As such, most doctors will also recommend chemotherapy or radiation to destroy the remaining cancer.
Chemotherapy, a type of cancer treatment that uses special drugs to kill cancer cells, is often used alongside surgery in stage 1 mesothelioma treatment plans.
Chemotherapy may be used to:
- Prevent mesothelioma cells from spreading before, during, or after surgery
- Kill off remaining cancer cells left behind after surgery
Many patients respond well to a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, potentially remaining disease-free for several months and surviving for years after treatment.
Radiation, a therapy that uses radiation to control or kill cancer cells, is sometimes used to treat mesothelioma.
Radiation therapy may be used for stage 1 mesothelioma treatment to:
- Kill remaining cells at the tumor site after surgery
- Shrink tumors to make surgery easier
- Prevent mesothelioma cells from being spread around the body during surgery
Before performing an EPP, mesothelioma specialists often use a practice called Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy (SMART). This approach seems to be effective at extending patient life.
Other Treatment Options
Stage 1 mesothelioma patients in good health usually turn to traditional treatment options to get the best results.
However, not all patients diagnosed early are good candidates for curative treatment options. These individuals may turn to clinical trials and the emerging therapies they offer in hopes of extending their lives.
Some emerging mesothelioma treatments include:
- Gene therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
Patients seeking clinical trials should be aware of their cancer’s stage since many trials only test treatments on patients whose mesothelioma has progressed a certain amount.
Improving Your Prognosis
The rare patient who receives a stage 1 mesothelioma diagnosis has an advantage when it comes to treatment options. However, even when caught in its earliest stages, mesothelioma is an aggressive disease with a poor overall prognosis.
Patients should give themselves every advantage when fighting mesothelioma to get the best prognosis possible.
Stage 1 patients may work toward a better prognosis by:
- Eating well: Many peritoneal mesothelioma patients may struggle to meet their nutritional needs as their cancer progresses. However, getting the right nutrition boosts the immune system, giving patients undergoing treatment for any type of mesothelioma the best chance of survival and recovery.
- Exercising: Exercise may decrease stress, improve blood flow, and help prevent bedsores and other secondary health problems.
- Managing stress: High stress levels may affect overall health and patient recovery from treatments.
- Not smoking: Smoking decreases overall patient health, making it harder — or impossible — to undergo and recover from invasive treatments. Smoking may also lead to another cancer diagnosis, decreasing life expectancy.
- Seeking life-extending treatment: Many mesothelioma victims are diagnosed late in their cancer’s progression, leaving them unable to undergo radical treatments that may extend their lives by several months or even years. Patients diagnosed early should take advantage and seek curative treatments while they are able.
Doctors are studying current and new treatment options daily. Emerging cancer treatment options may soon give mesothelioma patients far better survival rates or even a cure.
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.)