When determining the extent and nature of any kind of cancer, including mesothelioma, oncologists use a rubric or “staging” system which, in turn, plays a significant part in designing an appropriate course of mesothelioma treatment. 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 of such structure.
Staging assists the oncologist in determining how far the mesothelioma cancer has progressed and the realistic degree of treatability of the patient's malignancy.
Although there are three distinct staging systems currently in use, all three are based on four primary stages:
The tumor is confined to one organ or region and is relatively small. (Stage 1 Mesothelioma)
The tumor has grown in size, and has spread to one other tissue. (Stage 2 Mesothelioma)
The tumor has spread to adjacent areas. (Stage 3 Mesothelioma)
The tumor has spread to distant areas of the body, or “metastasized.” (Stage 4 Mesothelioma)
Stage 2 Mesothelioma Prognosis
In most cases, mesothelioma is not detected until it has reached Stage 3 or 4 - by which time a mesothelioma cure or a mesothelioma remission is not likely and all that can be done is attempt to make the patient more comfortable.
The new MESOMARK™ diagnostic test may enable pathologists to detect the disease at earlier stages, however. 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 malignant mesothelioma. At Stage 1, the tumor can usually be removed via mesothelioma surgery; radiation and mesothelioma chemotherapy treatments are used to follow up in order to get rid of any traces of malignancy.
What are the Common Treatments for Stage 2 Mesothelioma?
As with Stage I Mesothelioma, if the cancer is resectable or operable, mesothelioma surgery is the best treatment option for Stage 2.
Treatment options will vary from patient to patient, however, and it is always best to consult with your oncologist or primary care physician to see what your available options are.
As a collaborative and supportive treatment along with surgery and chemotherapy, radiation is a typical therapy method for Stage II Mesothelioma. Specifically, radiation therapy targets the cancerous cells, damaging the inherent DNA. By destroying the cancerous cells, radiation therapy inhibits any metastases.
Similarly to radiation therapy, chemotherapy stops the metastases of cancer by killing off the cancerous cells with chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy is a common treatment for many types of cancers and is commonly used to treat Stage 2 Mesothelioma.
Gene therapy is showing promise as a treatment option for Stage 2 Mesothelioma patients. During treatment, an individual's healthy genes are implanted into the patient with the aim of having the new, healthy genes replace cancerous cells. In some cases, genes can be manipulated to target specific cancerous cells. On-going research for this treatment modality continues and remains encouraging.
Immunotherapy, much like gene therapy, is still in its infancy but some studies are suggesting positive results in mesothelioma patients. With any type of cancer, especially mesothelioma, the disease compromises the immune system. Immunotherapy causes the white blood cells to target and invigorate unhealthy or cancerous cells. The long-term benefits and applications of immunotherapy are continuing to be researched.
Alternative therapies may provide relief from symptoms and the side effects of cancer treatment. Acupuncture and massage therapy are both alternative treatments that integrate well with conventional treatment methods and provide much needed pain and stress relief to patients undergoing mesothelioma treatment.
Palliative care is always provided to those with Stage 2 Mesothelioma. As there is no mesothelioma cure, most treatment plans include a palliative approach. This approach is aimed at alleviating the symptomatic pain and discomfort associated with conventional treatment such as chemotherapy. Palliative care designed is to provide the best quality of life for anyone suffering from a terminal disease.
Additional mesothelioma treatments may also be available. Consult with an oncologist to understand the full range of options that may be available to you.
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.)