When doctors diagnose patients as having mesothelioma, they must determine the severity of the disease in order to proceed with the best treatment options. To do this, they must divide the disease into stages. The stages of mesothelioma also help doctors to determine the disease’s progression, and it aids them in determining the patient’s prognosis. Medical professionals currently use three different mesothelioma-staging systems to diagnose and treat pleural mesothelioma.
Each system measures different variables including the extent of the cancer, lymph node involvement, metastasis, and more. When reviewing mesothelioma stages, the lower the stage, the less severe the disease. People who have more severe mesothelioma will be placed in the higher stages, like Stage III or Stage IV, for example. The later stages are also when mesothelioma metastasis typically occurs.
1. The Butchart System
The Butchart System is the oldest and most commonly used mesothelioma cancer staging system. Its measurement of the mesothelioma stages is primarily based on the extent of the tumor mass. Butchart System divides mesothelioma into four stages:
- Stage I – Mesothelioma cancer is seen in the right or left side of the chest area, or pleura cavity, and may also be found in the diaphragm.
- Stage II – Mesothelioma cancer has invaded the chest lining and reaches the esophagus, heart, or pleura on both sides. Lymph nodes may also be affected.
- Stage III – Mesothelioma cancer has passed the diaphragm and entered the abdominal cavity or peritoneum. Lymph nodes beyond the chest may also be affected.
- Stage IV – Mesothelioma cancer has spread through the bloodstream to other organs. At this stage, it is metastatic mesothelioma.
2. TNM System
TNM System is a more recent system used to stage mesothelioma by considering variables such as the tumor size and spread, lymph node involvement, and metastasis. In the TNM system, the disease is divided into four stages:
- Stage I – Mesothelioma cancer is located in the right or left chest cavity and may have spread to the pericardium, diaphragm, or lung on the same side. Lymph nodes are not affected.
- Stage II – Mesothelioma cancer has spread from one side of the chest to a lymph node near the lung on the same side. The disease may have also spread to the lung, diaphragm, or pericardium on the same side, but generally the cancer remains in the primary location at this stage.
- Stage III – Mesothelioma cancer has entered the chest wall, muscle, heart, esophagus, ribs, and vital organs in the pleural cavity on the same side. Lymph nodes may or may not be affected on the side of the tumor. True mesothelioma metastasis will have begun in this stage.
- Stage IV – In this stage, the mesothelioma cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the chest area on the other side of the tumor, to the pleural cavity or lung on the other side; or it has reached organs in the abdominal area or neck.
3. The Brigham System
The Brigham System is the latest mesothelioma cancer staging system and is based on tumor resectability, and lymph node status. The Brigham system is divided into four stages. The four stages of mesothelioma measured by this system are:
- Stage I – Mesothelioma cancer is resectable and lymph nodes are not involved.
- Stage II – Mesothelioma cancer is resectable, but lymph nodes are involved.
- Stage III – Mesothelioma cancer is unresectable and has spread to the chest wall, diaphragm, heart, or abdominal area. Lymph nodes may or may not be involved.
- Stage IV – Distant metastatic mesothelioma cancer.
Regardless of whether you have early stage or metastatic mesothelioma, you should understand what your rights are as a victim of asbestos exposure. Contact us here at Mesothelioma Treatment Centers to set up a consultation with an attorney experienced with asbestos and mesothelioma. A lawyer can help you and your family explore the legal options that are available to you. See our excellent guide to the different stages of cancer.