Stage 1 mesothelioma is the earliest stage of this cancer. The tumors have not spread far past the lining of the lungs in this stage, making them easier to treat. Stage 1 mesothelioma patients often qualify for a wide range of treatments like life-extending surgeries and have the best prognosis when compared to the later stages.
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 is 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 parts of the body. Stage 1 mesothelioma patients can often receive life-extending treatments since the cancer is still 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.
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. The dangers were hidden by major companies during this time. Thankfully, veterans with mesothelioma can get free or low-cost treatments and financial aid.
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, [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 they were exposed 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. The patient then 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.
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 actually 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. That said, doctors can still note how far the cancer has spread when making a diagnosis.
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
Many patients with early-stage mesothelioma have little to no symptoms since the cancer tumors are small and haven’t spread very far.
That said, possible mesothelioma stage 1 symptoms include:
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness and pain in the chest
Identifying Stage 1 Mesothelioma Symptoms
Many people who have stage 1 mesothelioma won’t have any symptoms. Further, those who do may not think they have mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease since the symptoms are also common in many minor illnesses.
Thus, 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, make sure to 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 of the symptoms.
Imaging scans used to diagnose mesothelioma include:
- CT (computed tomography) scans
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
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 then determine what stage your cancer is in and develop a treatment plan that best suits your needs.
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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
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.
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. That said, some stage 1 patients can live even longer with cancer treatments.
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Stage 1 Mesothelioma Treatment
Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma often qualify for many treatments that can help them live longer. Learn about common mesothelioma treatments that stage 1 patients can access below.
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): Often used to treat stage 1 pleural mesothelioma, this 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): Also used to treat pleural mesothelioma, 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. However, a P/D is often a better choice than an EPP since patients can recover faster.
- Cytoreduction with HIPEC: Used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma, 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 chances for long-term survival, provided the patient can safely receive one of them.
Factors that affect who can receive a surgery include:
- Age: Younger stage 1 mesothelioma patients are likely to recover from surgeries without serious complications.
- 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. Epithelioid mesothelioma cells often respond better to surgeries and other treatments.
- Good health: Most early-stage mesothelioma patients will qualify for surgery provided that they’re in good overall health. Patients with other pre-existing health conditions may not be able to safely undergo surgery.
Mesothelioma surgeries are usually combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Doctors may use mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs on stage 1 patients after surgery as a form of adjuvant therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Using chemotherapy this way could prevent the cancer from coming back (recurring).
Doctors may also use radiation therapy directly before surgery to shrink tumors, so they are 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.
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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.
“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)
Mesothelioma patients have the best chances of remission if they undergo aggressive treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
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 available than those with advanced mesothelioma.
Veterans with mesothelioma may have more treatment and financial aid options available to them than civilians. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has programs in place 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 $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 can help mesothelioma patients live longer.
Stage 1 patients can sometimes outlive their original prognosis with aggressive treatments like mesothelioma 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 by the makers 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. Veterans account for 33% of all mesothelioma cases today as a result.
Does mesothelioma stage 1 progress quickly?
Yes. Stage 1 mesothelioma can spread throughout the body in a matter of months without treatment. 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.
How is stage 1 mesothelioma determined?
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.