Stage 1 Mesothelioma
When determining the extent and nature of any kind of cancer, oncologists use a rubric or “staging” system. This system plays a key role in determining the appropriate course of cancer treatment for a patient. This is only one of the criteria by which malignancies are classified; the first of which is determined by the location of the tumor and the third of which is determined by the cellular structure (or lack thereof).
Staging assists the oncologist in determining how far the cancer has advanced and how treatable the patient's malignancy really is.
Although there are three distinct staging systems currently in use, all three are based on four primary stages of mesothelioma:
Stage 1: The tumor is confined to one organ or region and is relatively small.
Stage 2: The tumor has grown in size, and has spread to one other tissue.
Stage 3: The tumor has spread to adjacent areas.
Stage 4: The tumor has spread to distant areas of the body, or “metastasized.”
In Stage 1, mesothelioma is localized and confined to one area of the body.
This is the oldest system used by oncologists, and is used only for patients with a mesothelioma diagnosis of the pleural form. In Stage 1 under the Butchart System, the tumor is relatively small and confined to one side of the lung cavity; it may also be present on the diaphragm on the same side.
TNM stands for Tumor, Lymph Nodes, and Metastasis. This is a newer method which is usually employed for staging malignant pleural mesothelioma, although it is also used for other types as well including peritoneal mesothelioma.
Under this system, the mesothelioma cancer is located on one side or the other, and may also be present on the diaphragm as well as the pericardium (lining of the heart). It is however not present in the lymph nodes.
This is the newest staging system, which was developed especially for use with mesothelioma diagnosis. Under Stage 1 of the Brigham system, the cancer is operable and lymph nodes remain unaffected.
The main problem for mesothelioma patients is that historically, their condition is not detected until it has reached Stage 3 mesothelioma or Stage 4 mesothelioma - by which time it is too late to offer anything other than palliative treatments.
One ray of hope lies in the new MESOMARK™ diagnostic test recently approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA. This test was developed by a Japanese biotech firm and is reportedly able to detect the early biological markers of mesothelioma when it is most treatable and has the best chances for a mesothelioma cure. When the disease is caught at Stage 1, the cancerous tissue can usually be removed with mesothelioma surgery; mesothelioma radiation and chemotherapy treatments are used to follow up in order to get rid of any traces of malignancy.
Cancer Guide. "Understanding Cancer Types and Staging." Cancerguide.org, March 2009, http://cancerguide.org/basic.html
Dodson, R. and Hammar, S. Asbestos: Risk Assessment, Epidemiology, and Health Effects. (Boca Raton:Taylor & Francis, 2006.)
Galateau-Salle, Francoise. Pathology of Malignant Mesothelioma. (London: Springer-Verlag London Limited, 2006.)