Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that starts in the thin layer of tissue lining the chest or abdomen, called the mesothelium. The cancer can also start in other areas of the body, like the heart and testicles.
Stage 1 mesothelioma is the earliest stage of the disease. It is also the most treatable stage. The cancerous cells are confined to one area and have not spread to other parts of the body.
Stages of Mesothelioma
There are four stages of mesothelioma:
- Stage 1: Limited tumor growth where the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. It is limited to one side of the chest.
- Stage 2: The tumor has grown and has spread to other tissues in the area, but not outside of the chest cavity.
- Stage 3: The tumor has grown and has spread to other parts of the body, including outside the chest cavity.
- Stage 4: Advanced tumor growth and cancerous cells have spread throughout the body.
The TNM Staging System
The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system is a staging system for pleural mesothelioma. The AJCC TNM system is used to determine the stage of cancer and the treatment options available. The cancer stage will range from I (early) to IV (advanced). Treatment options are based on the stage and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy.
This staging system is based on three key pieces of information:
- T: the size and position of the main mesothelioma tumor
- N: if the mesothelioma cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes
- M: if the cancer cells have spread (metastasized) through the body
Numbers and letters can be added to the TNM denotations. These details are combined to determine which mesothelioma stage a person has.
There is currently no staging system for types of mesothelioma other than pleural mesothelioma. Having said that, peritoneal mesothelioma is thought to be stage 1 if it has not spread further than the abdomen lining.
Stage 1A and 1B Mesothelioma
For pleural mesothelioma, Stage 1 can also be divided into A and B types.
In stage 1A, mesothelioma cells can be located inside the lining of the chest wall on one side of the chest.
They may also be found in any of the following areas on the same side of the chest:
- The thin layer of pleural tissue covering the lung.
- The thin layer of tissue covering the organs between the lungs.
- The thin layer of tissue covering the top of the diaphragm.
In this stage, the cancer cells are found in all of the above linings and have spread, on the same side of the chest, to any of the following areas:
- Fat in the area between the lungs
- Lung tissue
- Sac around the heart
- Soft tissues of the chest wall
- The tissue between the ribs and the inside lining of the chest wall
What Causes Stage 1 Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. It is caused by exposure to asbestos.
The most common way this exposure occurs is through inhalation of asbestos fibers, which are very small and can be inhaled from the air. Asbestos fibers may also be found in dust from certain materials that contain asbestos, such as insulation, ceiling tiles, and cement pipe coverings.
When these fibers are inhaled, they cause irritation to the mesothelium cells, which in turn leads to scarring. This scarring can cause the cells to mutate and turn cancerous.
Who is at Risk?
Exposure to asbestos is the cause of mesothelioma. Workers who are exposed to asbestos on a regular basis are at risk for developing mesothelioma.
Other people at risk for developing mesothelioma include those who live with someone exposed to asbestos and those whose jobs involve demolishing or renovating buildings that contain asbestos. You may also develop mesothelioma or other associated conditions if you live in an area with high natural asbestos levels.
Symptoms of Stage 1 Mesothelioma
Stage 1 mesothelioma is the most common and least severe kind of mesothelioma. Most people with stage 1 mesothelioma experience limited symptoms and may not even realize there is something severe going on.
Symptoms of mesothelioma may include:
- abdominal swelling
- chest pain
- fluid build-up in the abdomen (ascites)
- fluid buildup (effusion) in the lung
- heart murmur
- irregular bowel movements
- irregular heart rhythm
- low appetite
- lumps under the skin on the chest
- nausea or vomiting
- night sweats
- pain in the abdomen
- pain in the side of the chest or lower back
- problems swallowing
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the face and arms
- unexpected weight loss
It is important to note that you may experience few or even none of the symptoms in the early stages of mesothelioma.
Diagnosing Stage 1 Mesothelioma
A doctor may diagnose stage 1 Mesothelioma by examining a person’s medical history and conducting a physical examination. A chest x-ray and CT scan may also be ordered to rule out other conditions that could cause similar symptoms.
Often, stage 1 mesothelioma is found incidentally. This means that doctors aren’t specifically looking for it but are investigating other potential causes of your symptoms.
Other times, people may receive cancer screening if they have a known history of asbestos exposure. This screening is a way to monitor people who are likely to develop mesothelioma, to ensure that it is caught as early as possible.
Imaging scans show the location of any tumors or growths in the body. They are also useful for determining how far the cancer has spread and if it has reached other parts of the lungs, abdomen, or heart.
X-rays may be used to check for any masses that may be growing in the lungs. This will detect any early signs of stage 1 mesothelioma.
A CT scan is a type of medical imaging that creates detailed cross-sectional images of the body. It can be used to diagnose and monitor many diseases, including stage 1 mesothelioma.
Treatment Options for Stage 1 Mesothelioma
The most common treatment for stage 1 mesothelioma is surgery. This treatment can be done through a thoracotomy or thoracoscopy depending on the location of the tumor.
A thoracotomy is an open-chest surgery while a thoracoscopy is minimally invasive and only requires a small incision in the chest wall to insert the camera to see the tumor.
The surgery will remove all cancerous cells from the lung and chest wall, which will help alleviate any symptoms of pain or shortness of breath that might be experienced by the patient.
A pleurectomy is the surgical removal of a portion of the pleura. The pleura is the thin membrane that lines the inside of your lungs and covers your lungs.
Other treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.
Chemotherapy uses medications to destroy cancer cells that have spread throughout your body. In contrast, radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells in your lungs and chest wall that cannot be reached by surgery. Immunotherapy uses targeted therapies to increase your immune system’s ability to fight cancer cells.
Life Expectancy for Someone with Stage 1 Mesothelioma
Stage 1 mesothelioma is the earliest stage at which mesothelioma can be detected. It, therefore, has the best prognosis out of all the stages.
According to statistics from Cancer Research UK around 60 out of 100 people (60%) will survive their cancer for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma.
When to Contact a Doctor for Stage 1 Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a serious health problem that can be life-threatening if not treated on time.
People are usually advised to see their doctor if they have any symptoms of mesothelioma like shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, or trouble swallowing. Mesothelioma symptoms may also include weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, and abdominal pain.
If you’ve been exposed to asbestos in the past and you experience any of the symptoms of mesothelioma, it’s important to get checked out as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Read on to find out the answers to some commonly asked questions regarding Stage 1 Mesothelioma.
Is stage 1 mesothelioma curable?
Unfortunately, no stage of mesothelioma is curable. However, the earlier it is caught, the better a person’s prognosis.
If you have Stage 1 mesothelioma, and it has not spread outside the chest cavity, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure called pleurectomy or pleurodesis. These procedures are designed to remove any fluid from around your lungs so that you can breathe easier. In addition, radiation therapy may be used to kill any remaining cancer cells near your lungs and chest cavity.
How early can stage 1 mesothelioma be detected?
There is no standard screening for mesothelioma, but people with a history of asbestos exposure should have regular check-ups with their healthcare providers to keep an eye out for any signs and symptoms of mesothelioma. This way it can be detected as early as possible.
Can stage 1 mesothelioma go into remission?
The prognosis for mesothelioma patients is poor, but the disease may go into remission in some cases. This means that the cancer cells stop growing or start decreasing in number for a period before returning again.
Your Next Steps
The first thing you need to do is to get the right diagnosis. This will help you identify the stage of mesothelioma that you have. If you’re a suitable candidate, you may be able to have surgery to try to remove the cancer and slow the condition’s progression.
You should also find a doctor who specializes in treating this kind of cancer, as they will have more experience in handling it. The doctor will also give you a treatment plan that suits your condition and your lifestyle.