Malignant mesothelioma is divided into four stages that describe both the progression of the cancer and the prospect for its successful surgical removal. Mesothelioma is considered to be in an advanced state when it is diagnosed as Stage 3.
During this stage, the cancer has spread from the mesothelium to various other organs and tissues in proximity to the original tumor. It has also overtaken nearby lymph nodes.
Symptoms of Stage 3 Mesothelioma
When mesothelioma is designated as Stage 3, the cancer is advancing into the chest wall. It may also invade the lining of the heart. According to the National Institutes of Health, Stage 3 mesothelioma may spread in two ways:
- The cancer is located in the pleural lining on one side of the chest wall. It may also have moved into the lining of the chest cavity between the lungs as well as the tissues covering the diaphragm and lung. It may have penetrated the lung and diaphragm muscle.
- The cancer is located in the pleural lining on one side of the chest wall, the lining of the chest cavity between the lungs, and the linings that cover the diaphragm and the lung. It may also have spread to the lining that covers the heart as well as the soft tissues of the chest cavity and the fat between the lungs.
In both cases, the lymph nodes on the side of the chest near the primary tumor will now be affected.
Treatment Options for Stage 3
Curative surgical procedures are usually not recommended once mesothelioma has reached Stage 3. The outlook for the patient is less optimistic at this point, because the cancer is located in several areas of the body. When the lymph nodes are affected, the disease metastasizes, which means that the tumors can develop in other areas even if surgery is used to excise the ones that are present at that moment.
However, if the malignancies are excessive in size and the patient is otherwise in good health and a good candidate for surgery, these malignancies may be removed in order to alleviate pressure that is placed on the internal organs. Fluid buildup around the lungs can be removed using paracentesis and thoracentesis in order to relieve pain or breathing difficulties.
Some Stage 3 patients may also be offered surgical treatments such as pleurectomy and decortication in order to debulk the tumor and ease symptoms for the patient.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are other treatment options that can lessen a tumor’s size, destroy or inhibit cancer cells, and provide relief from symptoms.
Prognosis for Stage 3
For Stage 3 mesothelioma patients, treatment can improve quality of life and enhance mesothelioma survival time but it is not likely to result in a cure. Some patients decide at this point to explore participating in a clinical trial as a way to access new but untested treatments that could help in the fight against this deadly disease.
Vanderbilt University Department of Thoracic Surgery
National Cancer Institute: Treatment Options for Malignant Mesothelioma
National Cancer Institute: Stages of Malignant Mesothelioma
University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: Staging of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
National Institutes of Health
Cancer Research UK