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What Are The Four Stages of Mesothelioma Cancer?

By David Arnold Livingston

One rare form of cancer is called Mesothelioma, a
malignant tumor in the mesothelial tissues of the lungs
and the abdomen, arising from the inhalation of asbestos.
Its rarity is one of the reasons why a lot of people are
not aware of this kind of fatal disease. In fact, many
people die of Mesothelioma undiagnosed. Although there is
now a growing awareness of the hazards of asbestos to
health, still many have not heard of Mesothelioma and
thus, have not understood its nature, cause, signs and
treatment. Even some physicians find it hard to detect
Mesothelioma because its symptoms are akin to other
diseases like lung cancer and pneumonia. Furthermore, it
takes decades for a patient who was exposed to asbestos to
develop Mesothelioma — fifty years, at most.

Being unaware of Mesothelioma poses higher risks since it
deters diagnosis and treatment. A person undergoing
treatment must know the different stages of the cancer or
the extent of the disease. Chances of recovering from
Mesothelioma and the kind of treatment depend on the stage
of the illness. There are basically two staging systems
used for Pleural Mesothelioma (lungs): TNM system and
Brighan system. These staging systems are also used in
other kinds of cancers; however, the first is commonly
used. There is no established method in determining the
stage of the Peritoneal Mesothelioma cancer (abdominal) so
the TNM system is used.

There are three variables in the TNM system: tumor, lymph
nodes and metastasis. In the earliest stage of
Mesothelioma, stage I, the malignant Mesothelioma cells
start to grow and multiply only one layer of the pleura.
The pleura is the membrane that encloses the lungs and
lines the wall of the chest cavity. However, there are
some instances wherein the pericardium (membrane that
covers the heart) and diaphragm cover are already
affected. In this case, the cancer patient is still in
stage I Mesothelioma.

In the second stage, the two layers of the pleura are
already affected by Mesothelioma. Take note, however, that
in this stage, only one side of the body is affected.
Normally, the pleura produces only small amount of
lubricating fluid that allows easy expanding and
contracting of the lungs. The excess fluid is absorbed by
the blood and the lymph vessels so there’s a balance
between the amount of fluid produced and removed. During
the second stage Mesothelioma, fluid starts to build up
between the membrane of the lungs and the membrane of the
chest wall, resulting to pleural effusion. The increase in
the volume of fluid produced causes shortness of breath
and chest pain. Other Mesothelioma cancer patients
experience dry and persistent cough. Diagnosis of the
pleural effusion is achieved through a chest x-ray.

Stage III Mesothelioma means that the malignant cells have
already spread to the chest wall, esophagus and the lymph
nodes on one part of the chest. The patient may suffer
severe pain near the parts affected. When not treated
immediately or when the Mesothelioma patient doesn’t
respond well to medication, the cancer may advance to the
fourth stage. The fourth stage Mesothelioma is formidable
since at this stage the Mesothelioma cells have penetrated
into the bloodstream and other organs in the body like the
liver, the bones and the brain. The lymph nodes on the
other side of the chest may also be affected by
Mesothelioma in stage IV.

Brighan staging system, on the other hand, determines
whether the Mesothelioma can be surgically removed or not
and whether the lymph nodes are affected or not. In stage
I Mesothelioma, the lymph nodes are not yet affected and
the patient can still recover through surgery. In stage
II, surgery can still be executed but some lymph nodes
have already been infiltrated by the cancer cells. In
stage III, the heart and chest wall are already affected;
thus, surgery is no longer advisable. The lymph nodes in
this stage, however, may or may not be affected. In the
final stage, stage IV Mesothelioma, cancer cells have
already gone to the bloodstream and other parts of the
body like the heart, brain, bone and liver. In most cases,
a patient who has reached stage IV Mesothelioma only has
four to twenty-four months to live.

About the author:
David Arnold Livingston is an advocate for Health
and recommends, as a resource:

Mesothelioma Asbestos Cancer

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