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Late Stage Mesothelioma – Stage 3 and 4

Those people found to have stage 3 pleural mesothelioma still have cancer that is only on one side of the chest and is in the pleural lining, the diaphragm, and/or the pericardium.

What is Stage 3 Pleural Mesothelioma

Those people found to have stage 3 pleural mesothelioma still have cancer that is only on one side of the chest and is in the pleural lining, the diaphragm, and/or the pericardium. The difference between stage 2 and stage 3 is that there is lymph node involvement with mesothelioma tissue. Mesothelioma is primarily spread locally and through the lymph system so it is common to have lymph nodes involved.

Diagnosing Stage 3 Disease

Most patients with stage 3 mesothelioma have symptoms. They may have unexplained weight loss, chest pain, shortness of breath, unexplained fever and cough. An X-ray may show thickening of the pleural lining or fluid within the pleural space. Many patients will have a CT scan of the chest or an MRI scan that may show lymph nodes involved with mesothelioma. PET scans of the chest and abdomen can show areas of increased radioactive uptake in areas where cancer cells are located. If lymph node involvement is found but there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body, the patient will be labeled as having stage 3 disease. The cancer may have spread to nearby organs, including muscle, cartilage and the lining of the chest wall. Fatty areas between the lobes of the lung and the pericardial sac may be involved as well.

Treatment of Stage 3 Disease

Patients with stage 3 disease may or may not have surgery, as a cure may not be not possible at this stage. If they have surgery, they can have an extrapleural pneumonectomy procedure or a pleurectomy with decortication procedure. These surgeries will remove much of the cancer but radiation therapy and chemotherapy are required in order to kill off mesothelioma cells that weren’t taken in surgery.

Prognosis of Stage 3 Mesothelioma

People with stage 3 mesothelioma have very little chance of survival for very long. The median life expectancy for people with stage 3 disease is about 16 months. This means that half of all patients will live more than 16 months and half of all patients will live less than 16 months.

What is Stage 4 Pleural Mesothelioma

Stage 4 pleural mesothelioma is the most advanced kind of mesothelioma. These are patients who have many symptoms of the disease including pain wherever the mesothelioma has spread, unexplained weight loss, fevers, coughing of blood, difficulty swallowing and general debility.

In this stage, the cancer has spread to different body areas, including the pericardium, diaphragm, organs of the abdomen, and the other side of the lung. There is no hope for a cure for stage 4 mesothelioma in most cases.

Diagnosis of Stage 4 Mesothelioma

Because mesothelioma is so aggressive, thirty percent of all patients with mesothelioma are diagnosed in this stage. The tumor spreads through the lymph system and through the blood so that even bone is involved in some cases. CT scans, MRI scans and PET scans can be done, showing areas where mesothelioma has spread. PET scans use radioactive glucose to identify areas of high glucose metabolism. Because mesothelioma cells are growing rapidly, they take up the radioactive glucose more and this shows up as areas highlighted on the PET scan.

Treatment of Stage 4 Mesothelioma

Many people diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma choose not to undergo surgery because there is too much cancer in places where surgery can’t be done. Rather than curative surgery, palliative care such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be done. Palliative surgeries may include surgery to drain the fluid from the lungs to alleviate shortness of breath

Prognosis of Stage 4 Mesothelioma

Patients with stage 4 mesothelioma have the worst prognosis of all the stages. Because aggressive surgery is not done, the cancer continues to spread with only chemotherapy or radiation to try and control the cancer growth. Immunotherapy can help strengthen your immune system to try and fight the cancer. The median survival rate for stage 4 mesothelioma is less than 12 months. This means that half of all patients will live less than a year after the time of diagnosis and half of all patients will survive longer than one year. No matter what side of this you fall on, unfortunately, this means that time is short. If you are thinking of finding financial help, there are trust funds available that you can get access to, we can help.

Sources & Author Edited: September 8, 2015

About the Writer

Senior Veteran Support Team

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center was created to provide information and assistance to veterans regarding treatment, clinical trials, and VA benefits for veterans suffering from asbestos illnesses. The MVC was founded by retired veterans and veterans advocates who have helped hundreds of veterans get approved for their VA benefits after developing mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer from their asbestos exposure in the military.

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