Stage 1 Mesothelioma

Stage 1 mesothelioma is the earliest stage of this cancer. The tumors have not spread far past the lining of the lungs, making them easier to treat. Stage 1 patients often qualify for several treatments and life-extending surgeries, and have the best prognosis compared to those in later stages.

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What Is Stage 1 Mesothelioma?

Doctors use stages of mesothelioma to describe how advanced a patient’s cancer is. Stage 1 mesothelioma is the first of four malignant pleural mesothelioma stages and the least advanced stage.

In stage 1, tumors have formed in the linings of the lung (pleura) and nearby tissues. However, the tumors have not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant body parts. Stage 1 mesothelioma patients can often receive life-extending treatments since the cancer remains relatively contained.

Stage 1 mesothelioma is one of four stages in the tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging system, a globally recognized method for noting how far certain cancers have spread.

Did you know?

Pleural mesothelioma is the only type of this cancer that can officially be separated into stages. Other types of mesothelioma are classified as localized or advanced depending on how far the tumors have spread.

U.S. veterans are at a high risk of mesothelioma since the military used a wide range of asbestos products between the 1930s and early 1980s. The dangers were hidden by major asbestos product manufacturers during this time. Thankfully, veterans with mesothelioma can get free or low-cost treatments and financial aid.

Amy Fair
Amy FairRegistered Nurse
20+ years helping mesothelioma victims

“In stage 1, the mesothelioma is contained within the pleura. Staging is important in mesothelioma, as it is in any cancer. It drives your prognosis, and 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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How Stage 1 Mesothelioma Develops

People don’t usually develop mesothelioma until 10-50 years after exposure to asbestos. This time between exposure and cancer is called the latency period.

Mesothelioma develops after asbestos fibers get stuck in the linings of major organs and damage healthy cells. After several decades of irritation, the normal cells mutate into cancer cells. At this point, the patient has stage 1 mesothelioma, which can quickly worsen without treatment.

Under the TNM staging system, doctors can classify cases of stage 1 pleural mesothelioma into one of two substages based on how far the tumors have spread.

A drawing of the lungs with a zoomed-in view of mesothelioma tumors. Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma diagram.

Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma is the lining of a patient's lung

Mesothelioma Stage 1A

In cases of stage 1A mesothelioma, cancer tumors are found on one side of the body in the lining of the chest wall. 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 invade the lung.

Mesothelioma Stage 1B

In stage 1B mesothelioma, cancer tumors have reached parts of the pleura on one side of 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, mediastinum, or heart lining (pericardium).

Despite this spread, stage 1B mesothelioma tumors are still highly treatable with aggressive surgeries and other methods.

Other Types of Stage 1 Mesothelioma

Besides appearing in the lining of the lungs, mesothelioma can also develop in the lining of the abdomen, heart, or testicles.

There are no official staging systems for the other types of mesothelioma. However, doctors can still note how far the cancer has spread when diagnosing.

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.

Learn more about mesothelioma stages, treatment, and more in our free Veterans Packet.

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Stage 1 Mesothelioma Symptoms

Many patients with early-stage mesothelioma have few symptoms since the cancer tumors are small and haven’t spread very far.

Possible mesothelioma stage 1 symptoms include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness and pain in the chest

A male patient sits next to a doctor holding out a stethoscope.

Identifying Stage 1 Mesothelioma Symptoms

Many people who have stage 1 mesothelioma will not notice any symptoms. Further, those who do may not think they have mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease since the symptoms are common in many minor illnesses.

As a result, patients may not see a doctor until their mesothelioma symptoms worsen. Unfortunately, delaying medical care can allow the cancer to spread.

See a doctor immediately if you were exposed to asbestos and now have possible symptoms of mesothelioma. An early diagnosis could mean you’ll have more treatment options available.

Mesothelioma Stage 1 Diagnosis

A stage 1 mesothelioma diagnosis is rare as most patients don’t see their doctor until symptoms have appeared or worsened. However, if you’re concerned about your symptoms and were exposed to asbestos decades ago, talk to your doctor.

If a patient is experiencing mesothelioma symptoms like chest pain or coughing, doctors can order imaging tests to look for possible causes.

Imaging scans used to diagnose mesothelioma include:

  • CT (computed tomography) scans
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
  • X-rays

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. A biopsy is the only way to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis at any stage.

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.

After confirming a diagnosis, doctors can determine what stage your cancer is in and develop a treatment plan that best suits your needs.

Use our doctor match tool to find top specialists who can diagnose and treat your mesothelioma.

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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.

Stage 1 mesothelioma patients have the best prognosis of all four stages since they can often get life-extending treatments like surgery.

Stage 1 Mesothelioma Survival Rate

The survival rate is the percentage of mesothelioma patients who 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.

Stage 1 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma have an average life expectancy of 21 months, according to studies from the Journal of Thoracic Oncology and Frontiers in Oncology. Some stage 1 patients can live even longer with cancer treatments.

Call us at (877) 450-8973 to start improving your stage 1 mesothelioma prognosis right now.

Stage 1 Mesothelioma Treatment

Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma often qualify for many treatments to help them live longer. Learn about common mesothelioma treatments for stage 1 patients.


Aggressive surgeries to remove tumors in the lung lining are often very effective in treating stage 1 mesothelioma. Further, early-stage patients can get the greatest benefits from life-extending surgeries.

Doctors can use the following surgeries to treat stage 1 mesothelioma:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This procedure removes the lung closest to the cancer, the lung lining, and all visible tumors. Stage 1 patients who received an EPP lived for 40 months on average, as noted by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).
  • Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): In this procedure, the lung lining and tissues affected by the cancer are removed but both lungs are spared. The IASLC found that patients who received a P/D lived for 23 months on average. The recovery time for a P/D is often shorter than an EPP.
  • Cytoreduction with HIPEC: This surgery removes cancer tumors from the abdomen. Doctors then bathe the abdomen with warm chemotherapy drugs. Patients who undergo this surgery live for 53 months on average, according to a 2019 study.

These surgeries offer the best chance for long-term survival, provided the patient can safely receive one of them.

Factors that affect surgery candidacy:

  • Age: Younger stage 1 mesothelioma patients will likely recover from surgeries without serious complications.
  • Cell type: Mesothelioma tumors comprise epithelioid and/or sarcomatoid cells. Patients with both cell types have biphasic mesothelioma. Epithelioid mesothelioma cells often respond better to surgeries and other treatments.
  • Good health: Most early-stage mesothelioma patients will qualify for surgery, provided they are in good overall health. Patients with other pre-existing health conditions may not be able to undergo surgery safely.

Mesothelioma surgeries are usually combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation.


Doctors may use mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs on stage 1 patients after surgery as adjuvant therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Using chemotherapy this way could prevent the cancer from returning (recurring).

Radiation Therapy

Doctors may also use radiation therapy directly before surgery to shrink tumors, making them easier to remove. Radiation may also be used after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells.

Clinical Trials and Other Treatment Options

Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma can access other treatments outside of the ones listed above by joining a clinical trial. Clinical trials test new treatments that could be potentially more effective.

For example, immunotherapy was approved as a treatment for pleural mesothelioma in patients who can’t undergo surgery after it showed promise in clinical trials.

Get our free Veterans Packet to learn about treatments that can help you live longer with mesothelioma.

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Mesothelioma Stage 1 Patients & Remission

While there is no cure for mesothelioma, some patients can enter remission for months, years, or even decades.

According to the National Cancer Institute, remission is when the signs and symptoms of cancer are reduced. Remission can be either partial or complete. In the case of complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer are gone.

Mesothelioma patients have the best chance of remission if they undergo treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

Doctors can help stage 1 mesothelioma patients work toward remission by recommending treatments to remove as much of the cancer as possible.

Help for Veterans With Stage 1 Mesothelioma

Our team — including veterans, attorneys, and caring patient advocates — can help you get treatments and compensation for mesothelioma. 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 than those with advanced mesothelioma.

Veterans with mesothelioma may have more treatment and financial aid options than civilians. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has programs to help veterans who developed mesothelioma after service-related asbestos exposure.

For example, veterans can get free or low-cost medical care from world-renowned mesothelioma specialists through the VA Health Care System. Seeing a specialist offers the best chance at extending life.

Veterans with mesothelioma can also access financial payouts from the VA that award nearly $4,000 a month on average in 2024.

File for mesothelioma VA benefits with our help right now.

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Stage 1

Can you survive stage 1 mesothelioma?

There is currently no known cure for mesothelioma at any stage. However, some treatments can help mesothelioma patients live longer. For example, stage 1 patients can sometimes outlive their original prognosis with aggressive treatments like mesothelioma surgery.

Why are veterans at risk of stage 1 mesothelioma?

Veterans are more likely to develop mesothelioma in general due to the U.S. military's widespread usage of asbestos. 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 by manufacturers of asbestos-based products.

The military stopped using asbestos when the dangers became known and removed many asbestos-based products from older assets. However, thousands of military personnel had already been exposed. As a result, veterans account for 33% of all mesothelioma cases today.

Does stage 1 pleural mesothelioma progress quickly?

Yes. Without medical treatment, stage 1 pleural mesothelioma can spread throughout the body within months. Mesothelioma patients only live for 4-12 months on average if their cancer is not treated.

Because of this, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are highly encouraged to seek treatment. Stage 1 mesothelioma is the easiest stage to treat since it hasn’t spread far.

Our team can help you find top mesothelioma doctors and treatments right now. Call (877) 450-8973 to get started.

How is stage 1 mesothelioma diagnosed?

Doctors determine if a patient has stage 1 pleural mesothelioma by noting how far the cancer has spread during a diagnosis. Doctors and world-renowned cancer organizations like the American Cancer Society rely on the TNM staging system to determine mesothelioma stage.

In the past, doctors diagnosed mesothelioma stages through different staging systems such as the Butchart system or the Brigham system. These systems have since been deemed obsolete.

Veterans Support Team
Todd Gersten, MD PhotoReviewed by:Todd Gersten, MD

Double Board-Certified Oncologist and Hematologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Todd Gersten, MD, is a double board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist specializing in general adult oncology and hematologic disease. He is a physician partner with the Florida Cancer Specialists and practices in Wellington, Florida.

Dr. Todd Gersten is an independently paid medical reviewer.

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.

  1. American Cancer Society. "Malignant Mesothelioma Stages." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 22, 2024.
  2. Cancer Therapy Advisor. "Pleural plaques/mesothelioma." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 22, 2024.
  3. Carioli, G., Bonifazi, M., Rossi, M., et al. Management and Survival of Pleural Mesothelioma: A Record Linkage Study. Clinical Investigations, 95(6), 405–413. Accessed on March 22, 2024.
  4. National Cancer Institute. "Understanding Cancer Prognosis." Retrieved from Accessed on March 22, 2024.
  5. Rusch, V. W., Giroux, D., Kennedy, et al. (2012). Initial analysis of the international association for the study of lung cancer mesothelioma database. Journal of thoracic oncology: official publication of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, 7(11), 1631–1639. Accessed on March 22, 2024.