Wednesday, 4 February 2009

What Are The Four Stages of Mesothelioma Cancer?

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. 

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