Stage I Mesothelioma

When a patient learns they have stage I mesothelioma, this is a doctor's way of noting how much the disease has progressed. In this case, a stage I mesothelioma diagnosis generally means that the cancer has not spread to other areas of the body. Stage I mesothelioma is generally more treatable and may respond more favorably to treatment than other stages of the cancer. The staging step is often a very important piece of information a doctor will use when determining a prognosis and treatment plan. Doctors can gain important information by understanding how far the disease has progressed.

There are three major staging systems in use that provide doctors with guidelines for staging malignant mesothelioma. Each divides the disease into four main stages characterized by the size of tumor, level of metastasis and/or operability. In each system, stage I represents a cancer that is not very far advanced, while stage IV represents a cancer that has that has greatly progressed. While mesothelioma has no known cure, stage I malignant mesothelioma is typically much more treatable than stage 4.

Typically stage I mesothelioma is characterized by a tumor that is very localized and is found only in one discreet area of the body.

Stage I in the Butchart System

The Butchart System is the oldest staging system in place for this particular purpose and is only used to stage cases of pleural mesothelioma. Under the Butchart System, the main criterion for categorization is the size of the primary tumor. At stage I, the mesothelioma tumor is relegated to a relatively small mass that appears only on one side of the lung cavity or the other. Generally, this means that only a portion of the pleural membrane is affected. Under the Butchart System, stage I mesothelioma may also have invaded the diaphragm on the same side as the primary tumor.

Stage I in the TNM System

The TNM System (Tumor, Lymph Nodes, and Metastasis) is a staging system sometimes used for malignant mesothelioma. Under the TNM System, malignant mesothelioma is categorized according to the size of the tumor, the level of metastasis and the degree of lymph node involvement. The TNM System is most likely to be used in cases of pleural mesothelioma (as this is the only variant of mesothelioma that has been formally staged), but it can also be useful in staging peritoneal mesothelioma.

Under the TNM System, stage I is used to describe a cancer that appears on one side or the other of the pleura (or peritoneum, in the case of peritoneal mesothelioma). At this point, there is no lymph node involvement. If the disease being staged is pleural mesothelioma, the cancer may have metastasized to the pericardium, the lung, or the diaphragm (on the same side as the primary tumor only). If the disease being staged is peritoneal mesothelioma, the cancer has not metastasized to any other locations in the body. It remains relegated to one particular side of the peritoneum.

Stage I in the Brigham System

The most recent staging system developed for use with mesothelioma is the Brigham System. The Brigham System also uses four stages, but its variables include the extent to which lymph nodes are or are not involved and the likelihood that a given tumor can be surgically removed. In the specific case of mesothelioma, the Brigham System has limited utility due to the fact that many mesothelioma cases are inoperable.

Under the Brigham System, stage I defines a cancer wherein the tumor is removable through surgery. This means that the tumor is operable and the lymph nodes have not been affected.

Stage I Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Treatment

Most forms of mesothelioma go through the same process of diagnosis. The first step is generally an imaging test, such as an x-ray, MRI scan, CT scan, or PET scan. This test allows physicians to get a visual picture of what is happening inside the body. Physicians use these images to look for any abnormal areas and identify where cancer might be present.

After an imaging scan is complete, physicians then conduct a biopsy by removing some of the abnormal cells from the tumor or cancer-ridden area. In the first stage of the biopsy, technicians will study the cells beneath a microscope to visually look for any abnormalities. As a general rule, cancerous cells have a visibly different appearance than healthy cells. In the second stage, technicians will chemically test for the presence of any proteins associated with cancer on the exterior of the cells. This second stage of biopsy is generally when the diagnosis is confirmed. Doctors will assign the disease a stage based on the size of the tumor and the extent to which it has spread.

Unfortunately, very few patients are diagnosed with stage I mesothelioma. By the time symptoms of the disease surface and the patient seeks treatment, the disease may be far past stage I. offers an informative packet about mesothelioma and treatment options applicable for patients in every stage of the cancer. Please fill out the packet request form on this page to receive a complimentary comprehensive packet overnight.

Because stage I is the least advanced version of the disease, patients who have been diagnosed in stage I have a better prognosis and more options than others. Surgery is generally the first step. The goal is to remove the tumor itself and a measure of surrounding tissue. Surgery is generally followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy in an attempt to eradicate any remaining cancerous cells.

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