Mesothelioma Stage 4
Stage 4 mesothelioma is the most advanced stage of mesothelioma, in which tumors that first developed in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or other areas have spread to other parts of the body. Stage 4 mesothelioma life expectancy is 8-12 months. While life-extending surgeries typically are no longer an option at this stage, chemotherapy may still help extend survival and improve a patient’s quality of life.
What Is Stage 4 Mesothelioma?
Stage 4 generally refers to mesothelioma that has spread from the location where it first appeared to distant parts of the body.
Stage 4 is the final stage of mesothelioma under the tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging system. Doctors use the TNM system to help malignant pleural mesothelioma patients understand the extent of their cancer, how long they can expect to live, and what treatment options may help.
How Late-Stage Mesothelioma Develops
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mesothelioma may take around 20-50 years to develop after a patient has been exposed to asbestos — the only known cause of the cancer. However, once symptoms appear, the disease progresses rapidly.
As mesothelioma cancer cells multiply, they cause tumors to grow and spread. Eventually, these cancer cells may travel through the lymph nodes or blood vessels, forming new tumors far from where they originated — a process called metastasis.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Symptoms
During stage 4, the symptoms commonly experienced by mesothelioma patients worsen. As the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, new symptoms may arise or extend to other areas.
Common symptoms of stage 4 mesothelioma include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty swallowing
- Extreme weight loss
- Muscle atrophy
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
Even at this late stage, the symptoms of mesothelioma are not unique to the disease, but symptoms are more than noticeable enough for patients to bring to their doctors who can run tests in an attempt to identify the problem.
How to Identify Stage 4 Mesothelioma
Since mesothelioma is so rare, many doctors may not immediately consider the possibility that a patient has it unless they are aware of the patient’s exposure to asbestos.
Doctors may perform an X-ray of the area where the symptoms seem to originate (usually the chest) to help them locate abnormalities such as tumors, fluid buildup, and thickening of the organ linings.
Such symptoms are strong signs of mesothelioma but may also indicate lung cancer and other cancers. Awareness of a patient’s asbestos exposure history and further testing are the best ways for a doctor to identify mesothelioma.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Sadly, many mesothelioma patients are diagnosed during stage 4 because this is when symptoms are most prominent. Misdiagnosis may also contribute to an advanced-stage mesothelioma diagnosis.
Doctors may use the following to help diagnose stage 4 mesothelioma:
- Knowledge of a patient’s asbestos exposure history
- Patient’s description of symptoms
- Physical exam
- X-rays and other imaging tests
- Blood tests
A biopsy involves the removal of a tissue sample from a patient’s tumor, thickened organ lining, or fluid around the cancer site. By examining this tissue under a microscope, a doctor can determine if any of its cells are cancerous.
Ultimately, a mesothelioma diagnosis can only be confirmed by performing a biopsy.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Prognosis
A prognosis describes how a disease is expected to progress. The stage of a patient’s mesothelioma at diagnosis is a major factor in determining their prognosis.
Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis in general, and patients diagnosed at stage 4 have the poorest outlook. However, some stage 4 patients may extend their lives with chemotherapy and other treatments.
Palliative treatment may also relieve symptoms, making life with mesothelioma easier.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
The average amount of time doctors expect a mesothelioma patient to live after diagnosis is known as their life expectancy. For this aggressive cancer, life expectancy is often measured in months.
According to a mesothelioma review published in the West Virginia Medical Journal, the median survival time for malignant mesothelioma of all types is 6-13 months overall and 6-18 months with treatment.
Stage 4 patients, who are often not able to undergo the most effective life-extending treatments, can generally expect to live at the shorter end of this range. However, chemotherapy may increase life expectancy.
Life Expectancy Without Treatment
Mesothelioma patients who choose not to receive life-extending treatment or who cannot undergo such treatment have a median life expectancy of 4-9 months after diagnosis.
For stage 4 mesothelioma cancer patients, this number may be even lower.
However, each individual’s case is unique. Some stage 4 patients may live far longer than expected due to a combination of factors such as overall health, cancer cell type, how their cancer progresses, and more.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Survival Rate
The percentage of mesothelioma patients who survive for a certain amount of time (often measured in 1-, 3-, and 5-year increments after diagnosis) is known as the mesothelioma survival rate.
Stage 4 mesothelioma patients have the lowest survival rates. The ACS found that only 8% of pleural mesothelioma patients lived for 5 years after being diagnosed at a distant stage (similar to stage 4 under the TNM staging system).
A patient’s remaining life expectancy may be greatly influenced by the stage of their mesothelioma after diagnosis. Stage 4 mesothelioma tumors are not resectable (surgically removable), preventing patients from undergoing the most effective treatment options for increasing their life expectancy.
However, stage 4 patients may still benefit from chemotherapy and other treatments.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Treatment
Stage 4 treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or new treatments through clinical trials.
However, chemotherapy, alone, is the standard recommended treatment.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Surgery
Stage 4 mesothelioma is usually not able to be operated on because cancer cells have spread to distant parts of the body, growing new tumors. At this stage, the cancer is too widespread for surgeons to effectively remove enough of it, and patients may be too sick to undergo invasive surgeries such as an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) or pleurectomy with decortication (P/D).
However, surgery may still help relieve symptoms and treat complications caused by tumor growth through partial tumor removal.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy, cancer-destroying medicines that are administered intravenously, is the standard treatment option for stage 4 mesothelioma patients.
While some individuals respond well to chemotherapy, a mesothelioma literature review published in the Ochsner Journal found that nearly two-thirds of mesothelioma chemotherapy patients do not respond to the preferred cisplatin and pemetrexed chemotherapy drug combination.
However, a new type of chemotherapy known as targeted therapy shows some promise as a more effective mesothelioma treatment option. Several targeted therapies are currently being studied in clinical trials.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy
During radiation therapy, doctors use high-energy rays to destroy the DNA of mesothelioma cancer cells.
For stage 4 mesothelioma patients, radiation therapy is most commonly used to help shrink tumors that can be directly targeted, relieving pain.
Many advanced-stage mesothelioma patients do not respond effectively to typical cancer treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, other options are available.
Other Treatment Options
Stage 4 mesothelioma patients are often not ideal candidates for the most commonly applied treatments. However, some late-stage patients may find better results by participating in a clinical trial.
Mesothelioma clinical trials test emerging treatments for the disease to improve the treatment options that are currently available.
Emerging mesothelioma treatments include:
- Gene therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
Patients should keep the stage of their mesothelioma in mind when searching for clinical trials. Many trials restrict patients by cancer stage.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Palliative Care
Palliative care describes treatment aimed not at extending life but at decreasing pain and increasing comfort and wellbeing. Therefore, doctors focus on reducing their symptoms and giving them the best quality of life possible during the final stage of their cancer.
End-of-Life Planning And Living With Stage 4 Mesothelioma
Stage 4 mesothelioma is the final stage of this aggressive cancer, and many patients live fewer than 6 months after diagnosis.
While such a diagnosis can be devastating, patients may ease anxiety and improve their general wellbeing by managing their treatment and making an end-of-life plan.
This plan may include:
Patients should speak with their loved ones about where they wish to receive end-of-life care (hospital, hospice, at home, etc.) and whether they would like to designate someone as their caregiver.
Care of Dependents
Patients with dependent children or grandchildren, pets, or anyone else reliant on their care should make arrangements to make sure those who survive them are taken care of.
Patients should let loved ones know how they want their body to be handled (cremation, burial, etc.), details about the funeral service, and any special religious requests.
A trusted loved one should have access to any important information they may need to know, such as the patient’s social security number and passwords.
A patient’s treatment team should know their priorities when it comes to treatment. Do they want to focus on extending survival time or easing symptoms? At some point, patients may wish to end all standard cancer treatments like chemotherapy and surgery.
Will and Other Finances
Patients should review or draft a will and make sure to account for all income and assets, such as investments, personal possessions, and other forms of compensation. An advance directive also gives you the opportunity to spell out your decisions regarding end of life care in advance. This includes whether or not you wish to receive life-sustaining therapies such as CPR, being on a breathing machine (ventilator), artificial nutrition or hydration. While these decisions may be difficult to discuss with your doctor or family, doing so ahead of time ensures that your wishes are followed, minimizing any unwanted procedures or unnecessary suffering.
Patients can ask their medical team for recommended end-of-life care documents and where they may receive further end-of-life planning assistance.
By working with their care team and planning ahead, stage 4 mesothelioma patients may experience a greater sense of peace and satisfaction at the end of their 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.)