Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Like most cancers, its severity is classified by four major stages. Stage 1 mesothelioma generally means that the disease is localized or affecting one part of the body.
In this stage of malignant mesothelioma, the tumor is confined to one part of the chest in the pleural lining. However, it may also be present in the lining of the diaphragm, the lung, and the cavity between the lungs, according to the National Institutes of Health. It has not metastasized to other parts of the body or spread to the lymph nodes.
Stage 1 cases of mesothelioma may be treated effectively; however, they often go undetected in patients until the disease has progressed to more advanced stages.
Symptoms of Stage 1 Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma has a long latency period – as long as 50 years after the period of asbestos exposure. In Stage 1, there are few symptoms. Most symptoms are caused by the cancer growing and pressing on a nerve or body organ, according to the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
At this stage, symptoms are mild and easily overlooked. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma – the most common form of the disease — may include:
- Back, chest or side pain
- Persistent cough
The lack of easily identified symptoms at the onset of mesothelioma makes early diagnosis difficult. Unfortunately, most cases are not identified until mesothelioma is in the advanced stages and treatments are fewer and less effective.
Treatment Options for Stage 1
Nevertheless, if mesothelioma is detected during Stage 1, the patient has a number of options for treatment. If the tumor is localized in one area of the chest, it may be possible to remove it using surgery. Radiation or chemotherapy may be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
If it the cancer is found in other locations in the chest, the following surgical treatments may be recommended:
- Pleurectomy: Surgery that involves removing the pleura (tissues lining or covering the lung). The lung is left behind and the pleural space around it is sealed. A pleurectomy can improve symptoms and may increase long-term survival for some patients with Stage 1 mesothelioma when used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy: An aggressive surgical treatment used mostly for patients with Stage 1 mesothelioma who are otherwise in good health. This surgery involves the removal of the diseased lung. Parts of the lining of the heart, the diaphragm, and the chest membrane (parietal pleura) on the side where the cancer is located are also removed.
Not all Stage 1 mesothelioma patients will be candidates for surgery. For these patients, it may be determined that chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of treatments (multimodal therapy) will offer the best defense against this disease.
Stage 1 mesothelioma is the earliest stage of the illness. So a fuller arsenal of medical treatments can be utilized against it on the patient’s behalf. Having earlier access to effective treatment may aid in extending life expectancy with this fatal disease.
Although a Stage 1 diagnosis offers the best outlook for the patient, it is important to note that mesothelioma is seldom diagnosed this early. That’s why individuals who were exposed to asbestos should consult with a doctor about the need for frequent medical monitoring to catch the first signs of mesothelioma.