Mesothelioma is often divided into only two stages, localized malignant mesothelioma and advanced malignant mesothelioma, although technically many doctors recognize as many as four stages. Understanding the stage of the disease helps to better devise treatment recommendations and standardize procedures, which can help many professionals to make faster, more informed decisions about the varying needs of their patients.
- Stage I: The disease is confined to a small, specific portion of the mesothelial tissue
- Stage II: The disease is present in the mesothelial tissue and has spread to some lymph nodes
- Stage III: The disease has spread beyond the mesothelial tissue into surrounding organ systems as well as lymph nodes
- Stage IV: Distant metastatic disease, meaning spread to several different sites far from the original tumor
Localized malignant mesothelioma, or Stage I mesothelioma, refers to the disease when it is confined to a particular portion of the mesothelial tissue, a soft, protective tissue that lines many of the body’s vital organs. Localized mesothelioma is far easier to treat in most cases, and treatments tend to be much more successful in effectively slowing or stopping the spread of the disease without causing serious side effects. Unfortunately, localized malignant mesothelioma is often not obviously symptomatic, meaning that many patients do not experience any health issues distressing enough to prompt a conversation with a doctor and subsequent diagnosis and treatment.
Advanced malignant mesothelioma includes Stages II through IV. In these stages the disease begins to spread to multiple portions of the mesothelium, certain organs or organ systems, and the lymph nodes. Mesothelioma becomes more symptomatic in its advanced stages, causing a variety of symptoms such as weakness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, abdominal pain, fever, weight loss and more. As different tissues, organs or lymph nodes become affected by the disease, treatment options become more complicated and less effective.
While treating localized malignant mesothelioma can consist of comparatively simple tumor removal operations, treating advanced malignant mesothelioma often includes the partial removal of tissues or organ systems as well as intense follow-up with either chemotherapy or radiotherapy.