Stage 1 is the earliest stage of mesothelioma. During stage 1 mesothelioma, the cancer has not spread far past the lining of the lungs, making it easier to treat. Stage 1 patients can often access a wide range of treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to help them live longer. These options give patients the best prognosis of all types of mesothelioma and an average life expectancy of 21 months.
What Is Stage 1 Mesothelioma?
Doctors use mesothelioma stages to describe how advanced a patient’s cancer is. Stage 1 mesothelioma is the first of four malignant pleural mesothelioma stages and is the least advanced stage.
In this stage, mesothelioma tumors have formed in the linings of the lung (pleura) but haven’t yet spread throughout the body.
Patients diagnosed in stage 1 can often receive life-extending treatments like aggressive surgery since the cancer is still relatively contained.
Pleural mesothelioma is the only type of this cancer that can officially be broken into stages. Other types of mesothelioma are classified as localized or advanced depending on how far tumors have spread.
U.S. veterans are at a high risk of mesothelioma since the military used asbestos between the 1930s and early 1980s as the makers of asbestos-based products hid the health risks throughout this time.
Thankfully, veterans with stage 1 mesothelioma can pursue free or low-cost treatments and financial aid from the VA.
20+ years helping mesothelioma victims
“Stage 1, the mesothelioma is contained within the pleura. […] Staging is important in mesothelioma as is in any cancer. It drives your prognosis, it drives your treatment modalities. It’s important to know if you’re a surgical candidate. The staging of your disease drives that decision.”
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Quick Facts About Mesothelioma Stage 1
- Aggressive surgeries to remove tumors in the lung lining are often highly effective
- Mesothelioma stage 1 patients have the best chances of remission (living cancer-free)
- Patients in stage 1 have the longest life expectancies and highest survival rates
- Tumors are still confined to a localized area (such as one side of the chest)
Mesothelioma Stage 1: Medical Overview
Stage 1 is one of four stages outlined in the Tumor Node Metastasis (TNM) staging system, a globally recognized method for determining how far certain cancers have spread. Cancer authorities like the American Cancer Society rely on the TNM staging system.
In the past, American doctors diagnosed mesothelioma stages by using older staging systems such as the Butchart System or the Brigham System.
Mesothelioma Stage 1A
Under the TNM staging system, doctors can break stage 1 mesothelioma cases into two substages based on how far the tumors have spread.
In cases of stage 1A mesothelioma, cancer tumors are found on one side of the body in the lining of the chest wall (visceral pleura). Tumors may also be found in parts of the pleura that line other areas in the chest, such as the diaphragm or lung.
In some cases of stage 1A mesothelioma, the tumors actually invade the lung.
Mesothelioma Stage 1B
In stage 1B mesothelioma, cancer tumors have reached parts of the pleura in the chest wall, diaphragm, lung, and mediastinum (a space in the center of the chest).
The tumors may have also spread deeper into the chest wall or mediastinum, or to nearby areas like the heart lining (pericardium).
Despite this spread, mesothelioma tumors in stage 1B are still highly treatable with aggressive surgeries and other methods.
Other Types of Stage 1 Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma does not just develop in the lining of the lungs. It can also develop in the linings of the heart, abdomen, or testicles.
As previously mentioned, there are no official staging systems for the other types of mesothelioma. That said, doctors can still note how far the cancer has spread in these patients.
For example, patients may have early-stage peritoneal mesothelioma if the cancerous tumors have not spread past the abdominal lining (peritoneum). The same can be said for patients with pericardial mesothelioma if tumors are only found in the pericardium and not in other organs.
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Stage 1 Mesothelioma Symptoms
Symptoms of stage 1 mesothelioma often go unnoticed. Many of the common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma haven’t yet developed at stage 1 as the tumors are small and confined to a relatively small part of the body. In fact, many patients are asymptomatic (having no symptoms) at this stage.
That said, possible mesothelioma stage 1 symptoms include:
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness and pain in the chest
These symptoms are also common in many minor illnesses, so patients may initially dismiss them and may not see a doctor until their mesothelioma symptoms worsen. Unfortunately, this can allow the cancer to spread.
Sadly, veterans exposed to asbestos 20-50 years ago who are suffering from these symptoms may not suspect they have mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease. For example, veterans may attribute their shortness of breath or other symptoms to smoking cigarettes.
If you or a loved one was ever exposed to asbestos and suffer from these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. The sooner mesothelioma is properly diagnosed, the sooner treatments can begin to help patients live longer.
Mesothelioma Stage 1 Diagnosis
If a patient is experiencing mesothelioma symptoms like chest pain or a cough, their doctor will order a series of tests to see what is causing the symptoms.
The first of these diagnostic tests is usually an imaging scan like an X-ray, CT (computer tomography) scan, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. These tests can show doctors fluid or masses in the lungs. If a doctor finds something that looks like cancer on a scan, they will perform a biopsy.
During a biopsy, a fluid or tissue sample is collected and sent to a lab where pathologists will test the cells for traits unique to mesothelioma. A biopsy is the only way to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.
If you were exposed to asbestos and are experiencing possible mesothelioma symptoms, talk to your doctor. Early detection and diagnosis of mesothelioma typically lead to more treatment options. Be sure to tell your doctor about your asbestos exposure history.
Sadly, few patients get diagnosed at this stage because those with mesothelioma stage 1 may have little to no symptoms.
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Stage 1 Mesothelioma Prognosis
Mesothelioma prognosis is the expected progression of a patient’s cancer and consists of life expectancy and survival rate.
Because patients diagnosed early are usually able to undergo curative surgery, stage 1 mesothelioma has the best prognosis of all four stages.
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Survival Rate
Survival rate is the percentage of mesothelioma patients that are still alive after a certain period of time. Approximately 20% of pleural mesothelioma patients diagnosed at stage 1 survive for 5 years or longer.
Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma Stage 1
Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma have a median life expectancy of 21 months, according to studies from the Journal of Thoracic Oncology and Frontiers in Oncology.
While the median life expectancy of stage 1 mesothelioma is less than two years — and the overall survival rate is relatively low — some patients can live longer thanks to cancer treatments.
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Treatments for Mesothelioma Stage 1
Determining prognosis helps doctors create personalized treatment plans for patients with stage 1 mesothelioma. Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma can get the greatest benefits from life-extending surgeries.
Surgery options for stage 1 pleural mesothelioma include:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This surgery removes the lung closest to the mesothelioma tumors, the lung lining, and any tissue the cancer has invaded. Stage 1 mesothelioma patients who undergo an EPP had an average life expectancy of 40 months, according to the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): With this surgery, doctors remove the lung lining and tissues affected by the cancer, but both lungs are spared. The IASLC found that patients who received a P/D lived for 23 months on average. That said, a P/D is a less-intensive and risky surgery for many patients when compared to an EPP since neither lung is removed.
These surgeries offer the best chances for long-term survival. Mesothelioma stage 1 patients that are in good overall health can typically undergo either surgery.
Mesothelioma surgeries are usually combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation. Doctors may use cancer-killing chemotherapy drugs on stage 1 patients after surgery (adjuvant therapy) to kill any remaining mesothelioma cells and try to prevent the return of the cancer (recurrence).
Doctors may also use radiation therapy on stage 1 mesothelioma patients directly before surgery to shrink tumors so they are easier to remove. Radiation may also be used after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells.
Who Is Eligible for Mesothelioma Surgery?
Certain factors influence a stage 1 patient’s ability to undergo life-extending surgery, which also affects their overall health outlook.
A patient’s eligibility for surgery may be affected by:
Younger stage 1 mesothelioma patients tend to be in better health, meaning they’ll be more likely to recover from surgeries without serious complications. That said, most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are older and many can undergo surgeries to live longer.
- Cell type
Mesothelioma tumors are made up of epithelioid and/or sarcomatoid cells. If a patient’s tumors have both cell types, they have biphasic mesothelioma. Patients with epithelioid mesothelioma cells often respond better to treatment than those with the other cell types.
- Overall health
Patients must be in good health to undergo surgery in most cases. Patients with other pre-existing health conditions may not be able to safely undergo or recover from surgery.
If you have stage 1 mesothelioma and are wondering whether your age will affect your eligibility for surgery, consult a mesothelioma specialist. Multiple surgeries for this cancer have proven to improve prognosis for both younger and older patients.
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Mesothelioma Stage 1 Patients & Remission
In cases of mesothelioma stage 1, there is a good chance that surgery can remove all or most of a patient’s cancer. With a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or other therapies, some patients could enter remission.
“Remission means that the signs and symptoms of your cancer are reduced. Remission can be partial or complete. In a complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared.”
– National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Doctors can help mesothelioma patients work towards remission by recommending treatments to remove as much of the cancer as possible.
Help for Veterans With Stage 1 Mesothelioma
Our team — including veterans, VA-accredited mesothelioma attorneys, and caring patient advocates — can help you pursue treatments and compensation from the VA right now. Call (877) 450-8973 to get started.
While a mesothelioma stage 1 diagnosis can be devastating, there is hope. Veterans and civilians with stage 1 mesothelioma often have a better prognosis and more treatment options available than people diagnosed with advanced mesothelioma.
Veterans with stage 1 mesothelioma also may have more treatment and financial aid resources available to them than civilians. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has set up several programs to help veterans who developed mesothelioma after service-related asbestos exposure.
For example, veterans with mesothelioma often qualify for free or low-cost medical care from mesothelioma specialists through the VA Health Care System. Seeing a mesothelioma specialist offers the best chance at extending your life, and the VA Health Care System employs some of the top specialists in the country.
Veterans with mesothelioma can also access monthly financial payouts from the VA that are worth $3,000 a month on average.
Common Questions About Mesothelioma Stage 1
Can stage 1 mesothelioma be cured?
Stage 1 mesothelioma cannot be cured, as there is currently no known cure for mesothelioma in any stage. That said, treatments given at this stage can help patients longer.
In some cases, stage 1 mesothelioma patients have been able to live for much longer than originally expected thanks to aggressive treatments like surgery.
Why are veterans at risk of mesothelioma stage 1?
Veterans are more likely to develop mesothelioma in general due to widespread use of asbestos by the military. Every branch of the U.S. military relied on asbestos-based products between the 1930s and early 1980s.
During this time period, the risks of asbestos exposure were hidden from the public and the military by the makers of asbestos-based products.
When the dangers became well-known, the military stopped using asbestos and took steps to remove products containing it. However, thousands of military personnel had already been exposed. Veterans account for 33% of all mesothelioma cases today as a result.
Does mesothelioma stage 1 progress quickly?
Yes. Mesothelioma stage 1 can progress very rapidly and spread throughout the body in a matter of months without treatment. Mesothelioma patients only live for 4 to 12 months if their cancer is not treated.
Because of this, patients diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma are highly encouraged to get treatment. Treatment is especially effective in the cancer’s early stages as tumors are still contained to one area within the body.
Our team can help you find top mesothelioma doctors and treatments right now. Call (877) 450-8973 to get started.