Stage 1 Symptoms
Symptoms caused by stage 1 pleural mesothelioma are similar to those caused by other lung diseases, like pneumonia and asthma. The main symptom you’ll feel is a slight to moderate pressure in your chest, which is caused by the build up of fluid in the lung’s lining.
If you’re diagnosed with stage 1 peritoneal mesothelioma, you’ll experience a similar pressure as your main symptom. It will, however, occur in your abdominal area, and be caused by excess fluid in the lining of your abdomen.
Outside of chest or abdominal pressure, symptoms caused by stage 1 mesothelioma are general, a characteristic which makes it difficult for doctors to attribute them to mesothelioma. Below is a list of symptoms you may feel if you have stage 1 mesothelioma.
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pressure
- Persistent cough
- Abdominal pain
If you’ve been exposed to asbestos in the past, and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible. While these symptoms aren’t specific to mesothelioma, finding out at an early stage if the disease is causing them will drastically improve your life expectancy.
Your Treatment Options
If you’ve been diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma, you’re eligible for curative treatments designed to remove mesothelioma form your body and extend your life expectancy. While these treatments are available for patients with other stages of mesothelioma, they’re most effective on stage 1 mesothelioma; the disease is easier to remove because it’s confined to the lining of 1 lung, and hasn’t spread to any other organs.
Pleurectomy with Decortication (P/D)
The P/D is a lung–sparing surgery, and ideal for patients with stage 1 pleural mesothelioma. The first part of the P/D is a pleurectomy, a procedure doctors use to remove the lining of the lung. The second part is a decortication, the careful removal of any visible tumors in the vicinity of the lung. Depending on how far the mesothelioma has spread, doctors will only remove the parts of the lung’s lining that are affected by tumor growth; they’ll leave the lung and the rest of its lining intact.
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)
The EPP is a more extensive surgery for patients with pleural mesothelioma. Doctors use it to remove the entire lung—and its lining—affected by tumor growth so that the mesothelioma doesn’t grow back. If the tumor has spread far enough, the doctor may also remove part of your diaphragm and of your heart’s lining. Removing so much may seem drastic, but it decreases the chance that the mesothelioma will recur, and increase your chance for an improved prognosis.
If you’ve been diagnosed with stage 1 peritoneal mesothelioma, you also have a curative treatment option: cytoreduction. This surgery is actually a number of smaller, specific procedures doctors use to remove the lining of the abdomen, and any visible tumors in the abdominal area. It’s often combined with heated chemotherapy (HIPEC) for amazing results. Many studies have shown that cytoreduction with HIPEC increases the overall survival rate of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma—some have even lived over 5 years after the combined procedure.
Stage 1 by Staging Systems
Doctors use 3 staging systems to describe how far stage 1 mesothelioma has spread. Using these systems helps them determine which treatment options will work best for your diagnosis.
TNM System: Stage 1
TNM is the most common staging system doctors use to describe the spread of mesothelioma. It emphasizes three growth factors:
T (tumor) refers to the spread of the primary tumor. N (node) refers to the extent the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes. M (metastasis) refers to the tumor’s spread to other organs.
Doctors assign to each letter a number that provides more detail about the spread of the cancer. After they do so, they stage the cancer with a number ranging from 1 to 4.
According to the TNM system, a stage 1 patient will show small tumors spread through the lining of one lung, the stomach or the heart. The tumor will not have spread to any other organs or areas of the body.
Brigham System: Stage 1
The Brigham staging system focuses on how easily a doctor can remove the mesothelioma tumor.
If you’re diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma under the Brigham system, you’re likely a good candidate for curative surgery.
Butchart System: Stage 1
Doctors use the Butchart system to describe the location of the main tumor, rather than its growth.
Stage 1 mesothelioma under the Butchart system hasn’t spread beyond where it first appeared in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart.
Improving Your Prognosis
You have the most favorable prognosis if you’ve been diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma. The disease is confined to the lining of 1 lung, and is easier to remove with curative surgery. As a result, you’re more likely than patients diagnosed with later stages to extend your life expectancy beyond the average. Just a few decades ago, mesothelioma patients were expected to live a maximum of 1 year. Now, patients diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma survive an average of 3 years after they’re diagnosed—some are still surviving.
1. Attanoos, R. L., & Allen, T. C. (2014). Staging. Advances in surgical pathology. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
2. Stages of Malignant Mesothelioma. Retrieved on June 20, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malignantmesothelioma/patient/page2
3. Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Staging. Retrieved on June 20, 2014 from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1999306-overview.