The treatment protocol for mesothelioma differs based on the stage that the cancer has progressed to at the time of diagnosis. Although there is currently no cure for this disease, recent medical advances have made a wider range of treatment options available to help improve patient comfort and quality of life. While there are a number of staging systems available to assess how far mesothelioma cancer has advanced in the body, the Butchart staging system remains the most widely used, especially for pleural mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma surgery is the most commonly recommended course of treatment for pleural mesothelioma patients having a Stage 1 diagnosis. The procedures that are likely to be performed are pleurectomy/decortication or extrapleural pneumonectomy. Post surgery, doctors may further evaluate the patient to determine if chemotherapy or radiation treatment is necessary. It is often determined with stage 1 mesothelioma that those adjunct therapies are not required.
Patients diagnosed with Stage II Mesothelioma still have a fairly wide range of treatment options available to them. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most common treatments that will be recommended. Surgery may or may not continue to be a viable treatment option at this stage. There are also a variety of experimental and alternative treatments that may be used to slow the progression of the disease and help manage the pain and stress associated with conventional treatment therapies.
The treatment options for Stage III Mesothelioma patients are fewer than those available for Stage I and II patients as the cancer, in this stage, has typically spread beyond the point of origin to other vital organs in the body or the lymphatic system. Treatments recommended for Stage III patients are primarily focused on providing patient comfort and improving quality of life.
A diagnosis of stage 4 mesothelioma usually indicates a very unfavorable mesothelioma prognosis. At this stage, the cancer has usually metastasized throughout the body to other organs and as with stages 2 and 3, cannot be cured. In this stage, symptoms generally increase in severity and pain management becomes the primary focus of the medical team. Therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation are typically not offered at this stage unless they are needed to support pain management objectives. Oftentimes families find that it is most helpful to seek out additional support through a local Hospice program. Hospice programs focus on providing patient care, developing a pain management protocol and providing support for both the patient and family members at this difficult time. Patients with stage 4 mesothelioma may also be interested in participating in specialized clinical trials offered at leading cancer hospitals and centers.
National Cancer Institute - Stages of Malignant Mesothelioma