Once you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, your doctor will tell you what stage of the cancer you are experiencing. This is typical if you are suffering from pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of the disease. Currently, it is the only type that has widely accepted formal staging systems. Knowing what stage you’re at helps your doctor know what kind of treatment options are available to you and which may be the most effective. Surgery can also be considered.
How is your stage determined?
To diagnose your condition and determine the stage you’re in, you’ll undergo a number of tests. Your doctor will probably begin with a physical examination and an extensive review of your medical history, then follow with an imaging scan. The imaging scan may be performed by x-ray, CT (computerized tomography), or MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) and displays the existing tumor(s) you have, showing their size and number. You may also need to undergo surgery or needle biopsy. The biopsy involves a “tumor grading” which classifies cancerous cells based on their microscopic appearance. Your doctor will examine such things as variations in cellular size/shape and patterns to help them better understand your condition, and even your survival rate.
The formal stages of pleural mesothelioma
Currently, there are widely accepted formal staging systems only for pleural mesothelioma. There are three: Brigham, TNM (which stands for Tumor, Lymph Nodes, and Mestastasis) and Butchart. Each system describes four stages that define how severe your condition is and how widespread the cancer is. Stage 1 is localized, while stage 4 refers to the most advanced form of the cancer, where it has spread far from the origin and is more complex to treat. The earlier mesothelioma is detected, the more treatment options you have and the better chance of survival.