Stage 3 Mesothelioma Cancer
Mesothelioma is a progressive condition for which, at present, there is no cure. Being a form of cancer, it is staged, with one of the stages being Stage 3. At this point, the cancer has begun to spread across one entire side of the lung and chest. Different forms of treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, continue to be available options.
At stage 3, the cancer has progressed and becomes less responsive to treatment. Generally, the prognosis is determined by how much the lymph node has been affected. Tumors are found around a patient’s chest cavity and outside the lining of the lungs, while still only being present on one side. Often, the tumors also start to affect the lining of other organs and the lymph nodes.
At this point, it can progress through local spread, meaning the main tumor grows, pressuring organs and tissues and even growing inside them. It is also possible for cancer cells to break off and affect the lymph system. Once this happens, the cancer can spread further, known as ‘distant spread’, which is when stage 4 starts to happen.
Symptoms of Stage 3 Mesothelioma
It is possible to mistake the symptoms of stage 3 for pneumonia, bronchitis, or another lung infection. Most patients experience:
- Dry coughs
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Chest pain
The symptoms are caused by the growth of the tumor. Different patients are affected in different ways, as the way cancer spreads is always unique to each individual. For instance, if it spreads to the chest wall, chest pain is likely to ensue. If, however, it forms around the lungs, breathing difficulties are more common.
Stage 3 Mesothelioma Treatment
At stage 3, tumors can still be surgically removed, although they are locally advanced. It is also quite common for radiation and chemotherapy to be used, so that other cancer cells can be removed. Usually, an extensive treatment plan will be created that includes chemotherapy, curative surgery, and radiation therapy, which has been shown to be the most successful in stage 3 mesothelioma. The recommendation is to use multimodal therapy, so long as the patient is healthy enough to withstand that.
Some of the treatment options available are:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), which is a type of surgery that is offered if the cancer has spread, including to the lymph nodes, and is designed to remove all of the tumors. During surgery, the lining of the lung and the lung itself are completely removed. Additionally, half of the diaphragm and the affected lining of the heart are removed. Any lymph nodes to which the cancer has spread are also taken out. It usually takes at least two weeks to recover in hospital from this treatment.
- Chemotherapy is provided once someone has had the surgery and has started to recover. Systemic chemotherapy is generally administered using an intravenous drop. Sometimes, they are provided with heated chemotherapy, which circulates in the chest cavity while undergoing surgery. Usually, gemcitabine, pemetrexed, carboplatin, and cisplatin.
- Radiation therapy is also almost always provided. However, there are now some research suggesting that providing radiation therapy before offering surgery can be beneficial in shrinking the tumors.
- Palliative care, which is care designed to help them manage the symptoms, while not curing them. For instance, radiotherapy and chemotherapy can be used as part of palliative care to reduce pain. It is also common for excess fluid buildup to be removed through thoracentesis (pleural mesothelioma), paracentesis (peritoneal mesothelioma), or pericardiocentesis (pericardial mesothelioma). In reducing the fluid buildup, symptoms usually improve albeit only on a temporary basis.
- Complementary and alternative therapies can also be used as a supplementation of the regular treatment plans. These therapies are usually beneficial for improving the immune system or helping to reduce pain. They include such things as yoga and dietary therapies. Herbal treatments have also been shown to be beneficial when used with chemotherapy.
No single form of treatment can be designated as being the best one. What is important to remember, however, is that treatments do still exist at stage 3. It is generally recommended that people seek a second opinion from an experienced mesothelioma specialist if they are told they have entered stage 3 so that they are able to find the best treatment for them. Furthermore, it is very important that you consider your emotion and mental well-being as well, and that you seek treatment for this, such as counseling and support groups. Lastly, your overall lifestyle will have a tremendous impact on overall survival rates, so focusing on healthy living habits, including good nutrition, gentle exercise, and stopping smoking.
Stage 3 Mesothelioma Prognosis
While the prognosis for mesothelioma is always poor, stage 3 prognosis is much better than that for those who have reached stage 4. That said, it does depend on how well the individual responds to treatment. If surgery has been completed successfully, and the post-surgery therapies are working as well, then survival rates are around one year.
Usually, stage 3 mesothelioma patients who are strong enough to have curative surgery will have a 16 month survival rate. It is not unheard of for people to respond to treatment so well that they surpass this, sometimes even by a year. In fact, a piece of research completed by Dr. David Sugarbaker showed a 19.3 months average survival rates if patients had received extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery.
There has also been a study that looked specifically at lymph node involvement. It was found that when this was minor the patient would have a survival rate of 17 months. Yet, if lymph node involvement was more significant, survival rates would drop to 13 months.
Unfortunately, these survival statistics are averages only. This means that nobody is guaranteed to survive at least for a certain number of months. Certain patients respond better to treatment and greatly surpass the average. Others don’t respond to treatment well at all and have an extremely short survival rate.