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What Are the Stages of Malignant Mesothelioma?

When a person is diagnosed with any type of cancer, especially very aggressive malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), one of the most important questions a victim and his or her family will often have for an oncologist is, “How advanced is the cancer?”  There are questions about how long the victim has left to live and if the cancer can be cured or treated.

treatmentWhile the prognosis for malignant pleural mesothelioma is often not very good, and the victim may have only a very short time left to live if the cancer was not caught early enough, to give the most accurate answer possible, an oncologist will have to stage the cancer.  We often hear the term Stage 3 or Stage 4 cancer or even end-stage cancer, but we may not really know what those terms mean.In the case of most cancers, including malignant pleural mesothelioma, oncologists will use what is known as the T, N, M staging system, as discussed in a recent news article from The Desert Sun.  It should be noted that malignant pleural mesothelioma forms first in the lungs, but it is not the same as the lung cancer typically associated with smoking.  However, malignant mesothelioma can also form in the abdominal cavity, where it is known as malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, or in the chest, where it is known as malignant pericardial mesothelioma.  Yet another thing to know about asbestos, as our Boston mesothelioma lawyers can explain, is that asbestos can cause lung cancer as well, but again this different from mesothelioma.

In the T, N, M system, the T stands for tumor and the N stands for Node.  The T is referring to the size of the tumor and the N is related to whether there is any evidence that the main tumor has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes. The M in T, N, M stands for metastasized and is used to determine if the main tumor has metastasized or grown into other parts of the body.  While it is true that new tumors can form at any time in any part of the body, at some point, the main tumor itself may expand so that it surrounds and attaches to bones and other organs.

When this occurs, the patient likely has Stage 4 cancer.   Stage 4 cancer is not generally treatable using surgical methods.  The patient can be given large doses of radiation, chemotherapy, or both, or the care plan may simply switch to keeping the victim comfortable, but this will depend on the wishes of the victim and his or her family.

While treatment options do exist, there is no way to cure the disease once it has progressed past the earlier stages as it most commonly does before a patient develops noticeable symptoms and goes to the doctor and learns he or she has malignant mesothelioma.  It is also a very painful condition.  This is one the reasons that a substantial part of the typical damages award for which an attorney will ask is related to victim’s pain and suffering.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Ask Dr. Mona: What are the various stages of cancer?, April 25, 2017, By Dr. Mona Khanna, The Desert Sun

More Blog Entries:
Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog