Mesothelioma Metastasis

Like other cancer cells, mesothelioma cells can separate from a tumor and move throughout your body. This process is known as metastasis. Metastatic mesothelioma is often harder to treat, but it’s still possible to get medical help. Learn more about mesothelioma metastasis and your treatment options below.

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What Causes Mesothelioma Metastasis?

cancer cells metastasizing

By definition, cancer occurs when mutated cells divide and spread faster than healthy cells. Any type of cancer can metastasize (spread), according to the Cleveland Clinic. Mesothelioma, a rare cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles, is very prone to metastasis.

Mesothelioma metastasis can happen when cancer cells:

  • Spread or grow into nearby healthy tissue.
  • Go through the walls of nearby blood vessels or lymph nodes.
  • Travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Once cancer cells have reached a different area of the body, they start forming new tumors. Metastatic mesothelioma is particularly dangerous because it makes the cancer harder to treat. Patients have fewer treatment options available for cancer that has spread.

Thankfully, patients can still access treatments to ease pain and potentially live longer with metastatic mesothelioma. Veterans with mesothelioma can access top treatments, as well as monthly financial aid, by filing for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Get a Free Veterans Packet to learn about top mesothelioma treatments and benefits now.

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  • Top Treatments
  • Best Doctors
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Where Does Mesothelioma Metastasize To?

Mesothelioma can metastasize to many different parts of the body. Where the cancer first forms can affect how the tumors spread. There are four types of mesothelioma and each type starts in a different area of the body. Metastasis can occur in different areas as a result.

Pleural Mesothelioma Metastasis Sites

Malignant pleural mesothelioma forms in the lung lining (pleura), so the cancer tumors often spread into nearby chest organs before reaching faraway sites.

Pleural mesothelioma can spread to:

  • Adrenal glands
  • Bones
  • Brain
  • Diaphragm
  • Esophagus
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Lymph nodes in the chest cavity
  • Lungs
  • Pancreas
  • Pericardium (heart lining)
  • Peritoneum (abdomen lining)
  • Thymus
  • Trachea
  • Spine

In rare cases, pleural mesothelioma metastasis can reach very distant areas like the tongue, thighs, skin, or eye sockets.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Metastasis

Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the abdominal lining. Most peritoneal mesothelioma cases rarely leave the abdomen, but that said, metastasis can still occur.

Peritoneal mesothelioma can spread to:

  • Cavity between the chest wall and the lungs
  • Liver
  • Ovaries
  • Spleen
  • Tissue covering the colon and small intestine

Pericardial Mesothelioma Metastasis

Pericardial mesothelioma forms in the lining of the heart, and is one of the rarest types of this cancer.

Pericardial mesothelioma can spread to:

  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Nearby lymph nodes

Testicular Mesothelioma Metastasis

Testicular mesothelioma, which is the rarest form of this cancer, can metastasize up into the lungs and lymph nodes behind the abdomen if it’s not caught early on.

In fact, some doctors will conduct imaging scans to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread to these areas.

Our on-staff nursing support team can help you find treatments after mesothelioma metastasis. Call (877) 450-8973 now to get started.

How Cell Type Affects Mesothelioma Metastasis

Mesothelioma tumors are classified into one of three mesothelioma cell types. Which cell type a person has can greatly impact mesothelioma metastasis. While all mesothelioma cell types are very aggressive, some spread faster than others.

Here is how each cell type affects mesothelioma metastasis:

  • Epithelioid mesothelioma: These cells spread slowly due to their cube-like structure. As such, patients with this cell type may have slower metastasis.
  • Sarcomatoid mesothelioma: These cells resemble cylindrical spindles. This cell type metastasizes the fastest as the cells are less likely to stick together due to their shape. These cells can travel through the vascular or lymphatic system to reach distant organs.
  • Biphasic mesothelioma: Biphasic mesothelioma tumors consist of a mix of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Epithelioid-dominant tumors spread slower, while sarcomatoid-dominant tumors spread faster.

A specialist can determine which cell type is present and if mesothelioma metastasis has occurred at the time of diagnosis.

Mesothelioma Metastasis & Stages

Pleural mesothelioma is classified into one of four stages depending on the cancer’s spread. The other types of mesothelioma are informally staged, again based on how far the cancer spread.

There is little to no sign of mesothelioma metastasis in the first two stages. In these stages, the cancer has only just started to spread to nearby organs, tissues, or lymph nodes. This means that doctors can treat the patient and hopefully delay widespread metastasis.

By the later stages (3 and 4), the cancer has begun to spread far into the body. According to the American Cancer Society, stage 4 mesothelioma marks the point where widespread metastasis has occurred. Cancer can be found throughout the body, including the bones, liver, spleen, and/or brain.

Many patients are diagnosed with late-stage or metastatic mesothelioma. Thankfully, there is still hope for patients with metastatic mesothelioma as treatments can ease pain and sometimes help them live longer.

Get help for mesothelioma at any stage: Learn more in our Free Veterans Packet.

Mesothelioma Veterans Guide
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  • Top Treatments
  • Best Doctors
  • Improving Prognosis

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How Does Mesothelioma Metastasis Affect Prognosis?

A doctor points to an ipad while speaking to an older male patient

A mesothelioma prognosis refers to the expected outcome of a patient’s condition. Patients with metastatic mesothelioma typically will receive a poorer prognosis, as there are fewer treatments they can safely undergo.

  • The average life expectancy for patients with metastatic pleural mesothelioma is 12 months, according to the medical journal Frontiers in Oncology.
  • The 5-year survival rate for those with widespread pleural mesothelioma is just 8%, as noted by the ACS.

Those with other forms of metastatic mesothelioma have similar — if not worse — prognoses.

For example, a man with metastatic peritoneal mesothelioma lived for only two months after his diagnosis. Another man diagnosed with metastatic pericardial mesothelioma lived just 22 days before passing away, as noted by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

That said, metastatic mesothelioma is not a death sentence and some patients are able to become long-term survivors with treatment.

John Stahl Testimonial - NO SHC Video Thumbnail

Video Summary: John Stahl was diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma after working with asbestos for decades. He and his wife Dee filed a mesothelioma lawsuit to get justice.

Dee Stahl:
The day started out fine. We got up and John, which is unusual for him, just came out of the bedroom
and just sat down and he said, "I just don't feel good," and I knew something was wrong because John
doesn't complain. I said, "Well, I think we should probably go to the ER."

They found out that there was over two liters of fluid on his left lung and they were amazed that he was
even able to breathe, period. They did a CAT scan then that's when he just said, "You have stage four
mesothelioma, John."

John Stahl:
I was kind of blank. I didn't know what to think. I didn't realize that my job had exposed me to this.

Dee Stahl:
We're the Stahls. I'm Dee, and this is my husband, John.

John Stahl:
My name is John Stahl. I was first exposed to asbestos poisoning through the construction business,
through Sheetrock, through gaskets and piping all through my career, and I worked 43 years in construction business. If you don't work, you don't get paid. The first treatment was with chemotherapy and I went every two weeks. It didn't take long, an hour or so, but it'd take me seven to 10 days to recover. That was hard for me because I'm a pretty active person.

Dee Stahl:
Asbestos is poison and it's a prescription for death.

John Stahl:

Dee Stahl:
I don't know ...

John Stahl:
It's not curable.

Dee Stahl:

John Stahl:
Well, at first it didn't really sink in. The longer and longer I thought about it, it's going to end my life
eventually, but I'm going to live it as well as I can.

Dee Stahl:
It made me mad and sad to think that these manufacturers could continue knowing that there was
asbestos that could hurt people, continued to make these products for how many years, years and years, and look what it's done to the love of my life.

It's heartbreaking. We filed a mesothelioma lawsuit because John deserves it.

John Stahl:
My kids are gonna be taken care of, Dee's gonna be taken care of, so it's a peace of mind knowing that I
don't have to worry about them going down the road.

Dee Stahl:
I want people out there to realize that there is help and they can get assistance and get a settlement
from these manufacturers that continue to use this and know that it was dangerous for people.

John Stahl:
We filed a mesothelioma lawsuit to hold companies accountable. It's important people understand that
there's help and there's people there willing to help them go through this process of making these
companies liable for what they've caused.

Treatments for Metastasized Mesothelioma

If a patient has metastatic mesothelioma, most doctors will recommend palliative care. These types of mesothelioma treatments are used to help patients live with less pain.

“There’s no one way to treat metastatic mesothelioma, so your care team can work with you to discuss options, give recommendations and listen to your preferences.”

— City of Hope

Common palliative treatments for metastatic mesothelioma include:

  • Surgery: Minor surgeries may be used to help reduce the size of tumors and, in turn, ease symptoms. Major surgeries are not recommended in cases of metastatic mesothelioma as the cancer tumors are usually too widespread.
  • Chemotherapy: This is the main type of treatment for metastatic pleural mesothelioma, according to Texas Oncology. It involves taking special medicines to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Radiation therapy: Doctors use radiation therapy to shrink and kill mesothelioma tumors. A type of radiation called stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) was shown to have helped patients with metastatic mesothelioma in a recent study, suggesting this treatment could be used more often in the future.
  • Immunotherapy: Doctors prescribe these medicines to help the immune system fight mesothelioma. A 2021 study found that combining immunotherapy and chemotherapy helped double patient survival times. One of the study’s authors hailed the results as a breakthrough for those with metastatic mesothelioma.
  • Clinical trials: These studies are looking for new ways to treat metastatic mesothelioma. Mesothelioma patients can ask their doctor if there are any clinical trials that may help them.
Learn more about treatment options for metastatic mesothelioma by calling (877) 450-8973 now.

Get Help for Metastatic Mesothelioma

You need to act quickly if a doctor has diagnosed you with metastatic mesothelioma. Thankfully, it’s possible for you and your loved ones to get help for this cancer no matter when you’ve been diagnosed.

If you have metastatic mesothelioma, you can:

  • Find treatments through the VA or private hospitals
  • Pursue monthly financial benefits from the VA
  • Get additional benefits and compensation through private means

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center has helped many other veterans like you find the care they need. We have nursing support staff, veterans, VA-accredited personnel, and patient advocates ready to assist you.

Check out our Free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet to learn more about your options.

Mesothelioma Metastasis FAQs

How does mesothelioma spread?

Mesothelioma spreads by growing into nearby healthy tissue and moving through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. This spread is known as metastasis. Without treatment, mesothelioma metastasis can be fatal in months.

Where does mesothelioma spread?

It depends on the type of mesothelioma a patient has and what cell type is present. Each person’s case — and thus, where the cancer might spread to — is different.

Mesothelioma tumors typically start in the linings of major organs. From there, they can spread into the lungs, liver, spleen, bones, brain, or other areas. In rare cases, the cancer can even reach organs like the tongue or skin.

Does mesothelioma always spread quickly?

Yes. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer. While some cases will spread faster than others depending on the type of mesothelioma and cell type, you need to start treatment immediately to prevent widespread metastasis.

Can mesothelioma spread to your bones?

Yes. Several studies have shown that mesothelioma can metastasize to your bones. Though this can make the cancer harder to treat, it’s still possible to get medical care. Learn more by calling (877) 450-8973 now.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

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