What’s Stage 3 Pleural Mesothelioma?
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is the most common type of the disease and is commonly diagnosed at stage 3 when symptoms are more noticeable. MPM is also the only type of mesothelioma with a formal staging system. While peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma is staged, it’s usually difficult to diagnose until cancer has spread throughout the body.
Veterans who were diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for VA compensation. To find out if you qualify, speak with a patient advocate today.
A doctor will determine the cancer stage based on a system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). It’s known as the TNM system and relies on three pieces of health information (tumor, node, and metastasis). TNM is only used to stage pleural mesothelioma.
- Size of the primary tumor (T)
- Cancer cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes (N)
- Advancement of the tumor to distant organs, known as metastasis (M)
The TNM system provides doctors with important details, showing where it has spread in the body. In stage 3, tumors have likely spread to other areas in the chest cavity, and possibly the lymph nodes. At this advanced stage, however, the cancer is still localized, meaning it hasn’t spread to the other side of the body.
Stage 3 Progression
When the specialist diagnoses stage 3, it means the tumor has already spread to nearby tissues and organs. Depending on how aggressive resection surgery may still be a viable option. The TNM scale divides stage 3 pleural mesothelioma into two sections, stage 3A, and stage 3B.
- The primary tumor is still resectable
- Cancer is localized to one side of the chest cavity, where the tumors originally developed
- Diseased cells may spread to nearby lymph nodes or diaphragm
- The tumor may have spread to the pericardium (heart sac)
- Cancer has metastasized or spread too far, and surgery may not be a viable option
- Spread is more expansive possibly coating the lung, reaching abdomen, spine, mediastinum, pericardium, and other nearby organs
- Lymph nodes are affected, enabling cancer to spread through other parts of the body more efficiently through the lymphatic system
Symptoms and Treatment
Mesothelioma symptoms increase in severity around stage 3. If you notice any of the following, especially if there’s a work history around asbestos, it’s essential to contact a physician immediately.
Stage 3 symptoms include:
- Body aches
- Blood clots
- Breathing issues
- The buildup of fluid in the chest or abdominal cavities
- Chronic dry cough
- Dyspnea, or shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating at night
- Unexpected weight loss
Treatment options for stage 3 pleural mesothelioma vary based on the extent of metastasis in the patient and the patient’s general health. If the surgeon can remove most of the tumors and the patient is generally healthy, doctors may suggest a course of treatment, which includes radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. Combining these treatments may help remove the remaining tumors.
If the patient’s general health is poor or if surgery isn’t an option, an oncologist will likely begin palliative care, which focuses on improving symptoms, but will not stop disease progression.
Veterans with mesothelioma can take action without affecting their benefits.
Life Expectancy and Prognosis
Life expectancy refers to the percentage of people with similar stages of mesothelioma who survive for a specified amount of time after diagnosis. For veterans with stage 3, life expectancy is approximately 16 months.
Once a patient has been diagnosed with stage 3 mesothelioma, they’ll also receive a prognosis, or predicted progression of the disease. A patient’s prognosis may be improved by making certain lifestyle changes recommended by their doctor. Changing diet and exercise routines can help a patient significantly improve their prognosis.
Even if a patient makes small changes in their diet plan, it can help improve their prognosis. Changes such as eliminating oils and increasing ingestion of vegetables, fruits, grains, fluids, and protein can make the difference.
A patient can improve their prognosis by exercising enough to get their blood flowing and sweat falling. 150 minutes of less-intensive aerobic work each week with a couple of days of muscle activity could help, but the exercises performed should primarily rely on the patient’s comfort levels and what their doctor recommends in their treatment plan.