Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, which was widely used in construction until the 1970s but has no known cure.
The symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on where the tumor develops and can be difficult to detect.
Did your doctor diagnose you with mesothelioma, likely due to asbestos exposure? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys serve as patient advocates for individuals who develop mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, or other diseases due to asbestos exposure.
Call a mesothelioma lawyer today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
What Is Mesothelioma?
According to the American Cancer Society, mesothelioma develops from mesothelial cells (membranes surrounding the lungs and lining the abdomen, chest, and testicles). Mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in people who have been exposed to asbestos.
Most patients with mesothelioma develop asbestosis or lung cancer before being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The most common symptom of mesothelioma is the development of a tumor, which often leads to difficulty breathing.
These tumors can spread along the lining of the lungs and abdomen. In addition, mesothelioma cancers may also spread to other organs in the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream, such as the liver and bones.
National Cancer Institute
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), mesothelioma is a rare cancer affecting men and women. Still, it can be more common in people exposed to asbestos for many years. For example, NCI states that approximately 2% of all lung cancers diagnosed in the United States each year are mesothelioma, and about 1 in 3 of those patients is a current or former smoker.
The average age at the time of diagnosis for mesothelioma is 68 years, and it's rarely diagnosed in people younger than 45. Mesothelioma occurs both as an isolated form and linked to another cancer, such as lung or gastrointestinal cancer.
Symptoms and Detection
It can be difficult to detect mesothelioma early on since symptoms do not always appear immediately.
The symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on where the tumor develops and can be difficult to detect. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, you must see your doctor immediately for an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment plan.
Doctors use stages of mesothelioma to determine how far along the disease has progressed and what treatment options will work best for each patient. Knowing your stage will help you better understand the available treatments and how long they may help manage your condition.
Because of this, it's important to see your doctor immediately if you experience these signs:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough not getting sufficient air into the lungs
- Rapid weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing or feeling like food is stuck in your throat
- Chest pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough
- Enlarged neck veins, legs, ankles, and feet due to a buildup of fluid (this symptom sometimes appears if mesothelioma spreads to the lining around the lungs or abdomen)
Doctors typically provide professional medical advice and use blood tests, the SEER staging system, and imaging tests to identify advanced mesothelioma and determine if cancer has spread to other areas, including distant lymph nodes.
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, you must see your doctor immediately for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Once cancer has spread, mesothelioma is very difficult to treat, but early detection greatly increases the likelihood of successful treatment.
The Official Staging System
The international mesothelioma tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging system categorizes malignant pleural mesothelioma, using four stages. Typically, a mesothelioma specialist uses the cancer staging system to formulate a treatment plan and identify whether cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
In diagnosing pleural mesothelioma, the specialist might use the TNM staging system to determine the severity of cancer. In addition, the TNM system describes the tumor size, lymph node involvement, and whether or not there are distant metastases.
- 1 = Tumor Size
- T refers to how large or small the tumor is in millimeters (mm)
- N refers to whether or not cancer spread to nearby tissue or the lymph nodes
- M represents whether or not cancer has spread to a distant organ
The diffuse malignant peritoneal mesothelioma tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging system can help identify the patient's prognosis.
Typically, the international TNM staging system method is superior to traditional staging pleural mesothelioma methods invented by Doctor Butchart in 1976 (The Butchart System).
The formal mesothelioma staging system involves:
- Stage 1 Pleural Mesothelioma: At this mesothelioma stage in the TNM staging systems, patients develop epithelial tumors. It means that the tumor was successfully removed by surgery, and there were no signs of any remaining cancerous cells in the body. However, because mesothelioma is slow-growing, it's possible to be stage 1 for years before symptoms arise. Therefore, surgery is the only effective form of treatment at this time.
- Stage 2: Mesothelioma Stage 2 is used once the tumor has spread into the tissue around the lungs and chest wall. The cancerous cells can also spread into lymph nodes, but no distant metastases have occurred yet. Therefore, surgery is still the only effective treatment option at this stage.
- Stage 3: Mesothelioma Stage 3 patients have enlarged lymph nodes located in their chest or abdomen. The cancer cells could also have spread into the lining around the lungs and other areas of soft tissue, but there are no signs of metastases in distant organs. Radiation therapy is typically used as a treatment option at this time, especially if cancer has spread into the lung lining or pleura.
- Stage 4: Late-stage mesothelioma Stage 4 patients have all the following:
- The cancerous cells have spread to lymph nodes and possibly other areas near the lungs or chest. At this stage, the cancer cells have spread into the lining around the lungs but have not yet spread to distant organs. Therefore, the patient may not be a candidate for surgery.
- At this point, radiation therapy and chemotherapy might be used as treatment options. Surgery is no longer an option since it's unlikely to lead to a complete recovery from mesothelioma.
- Stage 5: Mesothelioma Stage 5 is the most advanced stage of the disease, and patients experience all of the following:
- The cancerous cells have spread to distant areas of the body, including fluid collections in other parts of the body (pleural effusion or peritoneal effusion) and enlarged lymph nodes disease that cannot be surgically removed.
- At this point, only palliative care is available to improve a patient's quality of life. It can include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both to slow the progression of cancer and ease symptoms.
- This late-stage mesothelioma is considered more advanced when mesothelioma has spread to other body areas, such as the lungs or nearby lymph nodes. Once it has spread to other organs in the body, such as the liver or brain, it is considered heavily advanced.
Peritoneal Cancer Index
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the peritoneal cancer index is often used to measure the extent of mesothelioma spread.
In addition, the peritoneal cancer index measures the number of areas affected by pleural effusion or ascites, which are pools of fluid caused by cancer cells growing in the lining around the lungs.
These scores range from 0-4+ with 4+, representing patients with heavy fluid in at least 80% of the chest cavity.
What Are the Stages of Mesothelioma?
According to the American Cancer Society, doctors use stages or grades to describe how much tumor growth and spread has occurred. The larger the tumor size and the farther it has spread, the more advanced the stage or grade of mesothelioma.
Unlike many other types of cancer, there are no established early-detection guidelines for mesothelioma.
Because symptoms take so long to appear, most patients have advanced diseases by the time they are diagnosed. However, some people may have earlier stages of mesothelioma that are not yet showing symptoms.
The four stages of mesothelioma include:
- Grade I: The earliest stage where the disease is usually found in one location but hasn't spread outside the chest or abdomen yet.
- Grade II: This middle stage is when cancer cells grow beyond their original location and has spread to nearby regions, organs, nearby lymph nodes, or chest wall.
- Grade III: The third stage is when cancer has been diagnosed in more than one region of the chest, abdomen, or pelvis. It means it's also metastasized into distant tissues outside of its original area of growth.
- Grade IV: In this last stage, disease progression is usually widespread and difficult to treat.
Although it may be difficult to detect mesothelioma early on, regular screenings can help give patients a better chance of successful treatment during stage III or IV.
Unfortunately, most patients with mesothelioma do not receive a cancer diagnosis until they have reached an advanced stage of the disease.
Diagnosing the Spreading Mesothelioma Affecting the Lymph Nodes
Mesothelioma, or cancer of the mesothelial cells that line the abdomen, chest, and testicles, is rare but deadly.
Although mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose early in its development, many patients exposed to asbestos release go into remission after surgery to remove a primary tumor or diseased lymph nodes.
Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
Doctors use various diagnostic tools to identify the stages of mesothelioma accurately. For example, when diagnosing malignant pleural mesothelioma, the doctor will likely order a chest x-ray and MRI of the chest.
Mesothelioma Stages: Invasive Surgery is the Only Option for Stage II (Intestinal Mesothelioma)
Unfortunately, sometimes mesothelioma spreads to nearby lymph nodes during its progression, creating additional tumors outside the mesothelial lining surrounding the lungs and abdominal cavity.
It is important to note that there are no FDA-approved treatments for early-stage mesothelioma. Malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment options include radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of both therapies. However, even with the most aggressive treatments available today, many patients will experience recurrence once their cancer progresses to the later mesothelioma stages.
Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma
After an accurate diagnosis, mesothelioma doctors will treat peritoneal mesothelioma patients to see if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Peritoneal mesothelioma involves the abdomen lining, so doctors will likely use diagnostic imaging to look for tumors in other regions.
Once the cancer is diagnosed, patients must begin treatment as soon as possible, giving them an increased chance of beating the disease and putting it into remission.
Although mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose early in its development, regular screenings can help give patients a better chance of successful treatment during stage III or IV.
Unfortunately, most patients with mesothelioma do not receive a cancer diagnosis until they have reached an advanced stage of the disease.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Blood Clots Form in the Lungs
There are three peritoneal mesothelioma staging categories based on the extent of cancer growth. The mesothelioma stages represent different severity levels and generally affect people diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
Malignant Pericardial Mesothelioma
Progressive pericardial mesothelioma staging is based on extensive heart and surrounding tissue damage. Although some patients receive surgery to remove tumors, this procedure is often ineffective as cancer quickly returns.
Late-stage mesothelioma affects regional lymph nodes, spreading to other body areas. Unfortunately, the prognosis for malignant pericardial mesothelioma is very poor, with less than 20% of patients surviving one year after diagnosis.
Malignant Testicular Mesothelioma
Advanced-stage malignant testicular mesothelioma is rare and often diagnosed late in development. Although some testicular mesothelioma patients receive surgery to remove tumors, this option only works if the cancer is caught early.
Mesothelioma doctors typically recommend radiation therapy in the advanced testicular mesothelioma cells or offer palliative treatments to maximize comfort at the most advanced cancer stage.
Mesothelioma Treatment & Cure: Does It Exist?
Researchers continue to study new treatments for malignant mesothelioma in clinical trials throughout the United States. Although there are no FDA-approved treatments for onset mesothelioma, some experimental therapies show promise.
Like most cancers, mesothelioma symptoms can be managed when found in the early stage.
However, nearly every stage of mesothelioma cancer progression is identified at the clinical stage, where patients diagnosed with the condition began developing cancer decades earlier when exposed to asbestos.
According to the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC Cancer) Staging Manual, treatment options for patients diagnosed with advanced mesothelioma with lymph node involvement include:
- Curative surgery
- Radiation therapy
- Palliative treatment
Unfortunately, as with most cancers, mesothelioma treatments (and even cures) are few and far between. As a result, only a few drug manufacturers initiate clinical trials on medications to increase life expectancy.
Several therapies hold promise, but none have been FDA-approved for use against malignant pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma.
Not everyone responds the same way to treatment; some people don't respond. For this reason, it's important to continue having regular checkups with your doctor throughout your mesothelioma treatment plan.
Patients who reach advanced malignant mesothelioma stages experience health problems that make it difficult to perform common activities like eating or talking.
Has the Cancer Spread to Nearby Lymph Nodes?
Most patients don't survive beyond five years after their mesothelioma diagnosis, especially if cancer has spread to nearly lymph nodes. But modern mesothelioma treatments are helping patients live longer lives.
Although there are no FDA-approved treatments for mesothelioma during its early stages, some people respond well to stage III or IV treatment. It is great news for those who have been recently diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
There are three stages of mesothelioma based on the extent of the cancer. Each stage represents a different severity level and generally affects people diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
Prognosis of Mesothelioma Stages
Mesothelioma specialists and doctors study mesothelioma stages to determine how cancer progresses and if it has reached distant organs and the lymph system. In addition, cancer research and mesothelioma staging systems can help doctors who provide a prognosis for late-stage patients.
The mesothelioma stages of prognosis for mesothelioma, from early stages to the most advanced cancer stage with distant metastasis, typically involve:
- Early-stage mesothelioma: At the early mesothelioma development, Stage I & Stage II are usually undetectable. Often, doctors do not diagnose the condition in peritoneal mesothelioma patients until decades after cancer progresses in cancerous cells spread to nearby lymph nodes and the abdominal cavity.
- Intermediate-stage mesothelioma: As the disease progresses in stage IIIa, stage IIIb, and initial stage IV, mesothelioma patients typically show lymph node involvement in imaging tests, including MRIs, X-rays, and CAT scans.
- Advanced-stage mesothelioma: At the most advanced age, Stage IV, the mesothelioma is no longer on one side of the body. Clinical staging by mesothelioma specialists can identify the cancer cell progression in distant organs.
Based on the formal staging system, the life expectancy of peritoneal mesothelioma patients is relatively short when accurately diagnosed the first time. Patients have limited options other than palliative treatments and radiation therapy to reduce tumor size and alleviate pain and discomfort.
Filing a Mesothelioma Claim for Financial Compensation
Nearly all mesothelioma patients have legal opportunities to seek financial compensation after being exposed to asbestos decades earlier. Often, the mesothelioma victim was harmed in their job or place of employment by asbestos materials and products.
According to law, the victim can file a civil lawsuit against the company they worked for, citing the negligence of employees' safety.
Some companies did not provide employees with adequate protection or safety equipment, exposing them to hazardous materials and cancer-causing asbestos fibers. In addition, a mesothelioma claim can help victims' families seek compensation if their loved one is no longer living.
Financial compensation might be awarded through a settlement in the mesothelioma victim's death. In addition, mesothelioma survivor benefits can help supplement the loss of income and medical expenses for families struggling with the financial burdens of mesothelioma treatment.
Asbestos companies might be forced to pay damages that cover necessary medical care, pain and suffering, lost wages, funeral costs, and more. Mesothelioma attorneys can gather evidence and present a strong case for compensation during legal proceedings with the defendant company.
Sometimes, family members have filed lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers for their loved ones after having died from mesothelioma or asbestosis. It may be possible to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party to hold them liable.
Hiring a Mesothelioma Cancer Attorney to Resolve a Compensation Case
Was your loved one the victim of asbestos exposure leading to pleural mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, or another disease? Are you seeking financial compensation and death benefits paid by negligent parties that caused your loved one's demise?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for mesothelioma patients and their surviving family members. Call us at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation.
We accept all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This promise ensures you pay nothing until your case is resolved through a jury award or negotiated settlement.