Stage 3 is an advanced stage of mesothelioma that usually affects the lining of the lungs or abdomen. It can also affect other organs in the body. The cancer cells that cause stage 3 mesothelioma are very resistant to treatment, so it can be hard to cure this disease.
Stage 3 mesothelioma is more difficult to treat than stage 1 or 2 because it has spread beyond the lining (pleura) that covers the lungs. This can lead to a number of complications, including difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Stages of Mesothelioma
There are four stages of pleural mesothelioma:
- Stage 1: Limited tumor growth with no spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage 2: Tumor growth and spread to other parts of the body, but not outside the chest cavity.
- Stage 3: Tumor growth and spread to other parts of the body, including outside the chest cavity.
- Stage 4: Advanced tumor growth and spread throughout the body.
The TNM Staging System
There are several different ways of staging mesothelioma, but the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system is the leading and most commonly used staging system. This staging system is based on three key pieces of information:
- T: the size and location of the primary mesothelioma tumor
- N: if the mesothelioma cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes
- M: if the cancer cells have spread (metastasized) through the body
To provide additional information, numbers and letters may be added to the TNM denotations. These details are combined to determine which stage of mesothelioma a person has.
Pleural mesothelioma is the only variation of mesothelioma that has a widely accepted staging system.
Stage 3A and 3B Mesothelioma
For pleural mesothelioma, Stage 3 can also be categorized into stages A and B.
In stage 3A, cancer is found in the lining of the chest wall, and in each of the layers that cover the lung and chest organs.
There is cancer on the same side of the chest and the cells have spread to one or more of these nearby places:
- the fat in the area between the lungs
- the sac around the heart
- the tissues in between the ribs and the inside lining of the chest wall
- the soft tissues of the chest wall
By this stage, the cancer cells have also spread to lymph nodes that are located along the center of the chest on the same side of the chest as the tumor.
This stage can be determined by having all of the characteristics of stage 3A as well as the cells having spread into:
- the diaphragm
- lung tissue
In stage 3B, the cancer has spread to lymph nodes above the collarbone on either side of the chest. In other cases, the cancer has spread to lymph nodes located along the center of the chest on the opposite side of the chest as the primary tumor.
Alternatively, the other way of determining that the mesothelioma has reached stage 3B is when cancer cells are found in the lining of the chest wall, the organs between the lungs, as well as each of the thin layers of tissue that cover the lung, and the top of the diaphragm on one side of the chest.
In this case, the cancer cells have also spread to one or more of the following:
- the chest wall and may be found in the rib
- the organs in the area between the lungs
- the spine
- the tissue lining the chest on the opposite side of the body as the tumor
- through the diaphragm into the peritoneum
- through the sac around the heart or into the heart muscle
Cancer may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops in the tissue that covers the lungs, abdomen, heart, or other organs. It’s caused by exposure to asbestos, which is found in many building materials from the late 1800s to the early 1980s.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was mined and used extensively in the past.
It was widely used because it is resistant to heat, fire, electricity, and chemicals. It has been used in insulation, ceiling tiles, flooring materials, and more. Asbestos fibers are dangerous when they are breathed in because they can get lodged in the lungs and cause health problems over time such as lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Who is at Risk?
Individuals with a history of exposure to asbestos in their workplace or home are at risk of developing stage 3 mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos can occur when the fibers are inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with the skin.
The majority of people who develop mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos in their workplace. The most common occupational exposures to asbestos are found in construction trades such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and pipefitters.
Additionally, those who work in shipyards and oil refineries may be exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers through dust and fumes.
There is also a risk of exposure when handling products that contain asbestos such as insulation materials and brake linings.
By stage 3, the symptoms of mesothelioma may have advanced and be more noticeable than those for stage 1 and stage 2.
Symptoms of mesothelioma may include:
- abdominal pain
- abdominal swelling
- chest pain
- decreased appetite
- difficulty swallowing
- fluid build-up in the abdomen (ascites)
- fluid buildup (effusion) in the lung
- heart murmur
- irregular bowel movements
- irregular heart rhythm
- lumps under the skin on the chest
- nausea or vomiting
- night sweats
- pain in the side of the chest or lower back
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the face and arms
- weight loss without trying
This list does not cover all possible symptoms of stage 3 mesothelioma, but is a combination of symptoms that you may experience if you have advanced mesothelioma of any type.
Diagnosing Stage 3 Mesothelioma
Diagnosing stage 3 mesothelioma is a difficult task because it is not always easy to detect. There are no specific symptoms that can help the doctor diagnose this disease. The only way to confirm that a person has stage 3 mesothelioma is through a biopsy.
A biopsy can be done in two ways – either by needle aspiration or surgery. A needle aspiration biopsy involves taking cells from the pleural fluid and examining them under a microscope for mesothelioma cells, whereas, in surgery, the surgeon removes a piece of lung tissue for examination and diagnosis.
Imaging scans may be useful for doctors to be able to rule out any other conditions. These may include things such as x-rays or CT scans.
Treatment Options for Stage 3 Mesothelioma
Treatment options for stage 3 mesothelioma differ slightly from those for stage 1 and stage 2. The focus may be more on palliative care than on removing the tumor. Stage 3 mesothelioma has usually progressed too far for surgery to be effective at removing the cancer.
However, that is not to say that treatment cannot prolong a person’s life at this stage.
Treatment options for stage 3 mesothelioma include:
- Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. In this treatment, doctors use man-made and natural substances to train the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells as if they were an infection. The goal is for the immune system to do its own work in fighting off cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy – This cancer treatment uses drugs to kill or subdue cancer cells and stop them from spreading.
- Surgery to drain fluids – Chest drainage is a technique in which fluid and air are removed from the chest cavity. This helps to relieve pressure and discomfort and improve quality of life.
- Clinical trials of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy combinations may be appropriate for some candidates.
According to statistics from Cancer Research UK, around 50 out of 100 people (50%) will survive their cancer for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed at stage 3.
When to Contact a Doctor
Symptoms of mesothelioma can be difficult to identify. The symptoms of mesothelioma are often vague and hard to spot. This is why it is important for people exposed to asbestos to be aware of the symptoms and know when they need medical attention. This is because the symptoms are often attributed to other conditions, such as a lung infection, pneumonia, or heart failure.
If you feel like you’re experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma, it’s important that you contact your doctor right away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Read on to find out the answers to some commonly asked questions regarding Stage 3 Mesothelioma.
Can a lung transplant cure stage 3 mesothelioma?
There is currently no evidence that a lung transplant can cure mesothelioma, and people with mesothelioma are not considered candidates for lung transplants.
What part of the body is affected by stage 3 mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that typically affects the chest or abdomen lining. The mesothelium is a thin layer of tissue that covers parts of the body, such as the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testes. When this tissue becomes irritated by asbestos, it can cause mesothelioma.
What is the life expectancy of a person with stage 3 mesothelioma?
The mesothelioma survival rate is typically 4-18 months after diagnosis. However, there have been patients diagnosed with mesothelioma who have lived for over 10 years. The cause of such a high survival rate is unknown but could be due to the patient’s age, the type of tumor, or the location in which it was found.
Your Next Steps
The first thing you should do is talk to your doctor about the diagnosis. Your doctor will help you understand what stage 3 mesothelioma means and how it can be treated. You should also talk about any family history of mesothelioma as well as any other medical conditions you may have.
After that, your doctor will give you a treatment plan for the disease. This plan might involve surgery or chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It might also include supportive care such as pain management, breathing exercises, and physical therapy.
If you are diagnosed with stage 3 mesothelioma, make sure to take care of yourself during this time of stress by eating well and getting enough sleep so that your body can heal itself!