Doctors have traditionally determined the severity of a patient’s cancer in terms of “stages.” The stage of an individual’s cancer determines the life expectancy and prognosis of the victim. Through the years, many staging models have been created, taking into consideration many factors such as lymph node involvement and metastases.
When a diagnosis is made, one of the first things the oncologist attempts to do is “stage” the cancer, a step that will help him determine the best cause of treatment. Unfortunately, malignant mesothelioma – because of its nature – is often not diagnosed until Stage 3 or 4 when symptoms finally begin to appear. That allows for far fewer treatment options.
Currently, there are three widely-accepted staging systems for malignant pleural mesothelioma but no systems for measuring the rarer forms of the disease – peritoneal, pericardial and testicular mesothelioma.
The system most commonly used by doctors to stage malignant pleural mesothelioma is the Butchart System, the first one devised to measure this aggressive form of cancer. It is based on the mass (or size) of the tumor and is divided into four stages.
Also divided into four stages, the more modern TNM System of cancer staging is based on extent of the tumor, metastases, and the involvement of the lymph nodes.
This is the newest staging system for malignant mesothelioma. It considers resectability (whether or not the tumor can be surgically removed) as well as lymph node involvement. That means it is not used very often as most mesothelioma patients are not candidates for surgery. It is divided into four stages.
A simple physical examination cannot determine the stage of malignant mesothelioma. In most cases, sophisticated imaging tests will be involved, including MRIs, CT scans or PET scans. Biopsies may also be used.
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