One of the problems with mesothelioma is it has a tendency to become metastatic. Metastasis means it can spread from the point of origination to lymph nodes and other organs and tissues and organs. If mesothelioma gets into the lymph nodes, it means that early metastasis is occurring,
Mesothelioma can metastasize into the lymph nodes and other areas of the body in 10-50% of stage 4 asbestos cancer patients. These cancer cells can spread locally, regionally, and distantly in the body.
Spreading to Lymph Nodes in Early Stages
In stages I-3, mesothelioma cancer cells spread in the body cavity where they initially developed and then regionally to the lymph nodes. It is only in stage 4 where the mesothelioma can metastasize to distant areas of the body. (Cancer.org)
In most cases, it is common for asbestos cancer to spread in the cavity where it originally grew, where it can affect the lymph nodes. This is called local spread in the medical community.
The progression of mesothelioma can be detected through MRI’s, PET or CT scans. Physicians usually think cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other more distant areas when the patient complains of symptoms that are not generally related to mesothelioma. (mesotheliomaguide.com)
How Mesothelioma Metastasizes
Tiny mesothelioma cells go from the initial tumor site through the blood or lymph system into other organs, tissues, and lymph nodes. The lymphatic system is a series of circulatory vessels that carry lymph throughout the body to fight infection. Lymph contains white blood cells.
The lymph system has hundreds of nodes that can close the flow of lymph and filter out toxins. There are hundreds of lymph nodes where cancer can spread.
Where Mesothelioma Metastasizes?
At first, mesothelioma usually metastasizes into nearby lymph nodes. After that, it can spread to the: (asbestos.com)
- Adrenal glands
Mesothelioma can spread in the body in many ways. Metastasis usually happens as cancer cells go through the bloodstream or the lymph nodes to distant areas of the body. After mesothelioma cells have spread to different parts of the body, they can attack organs and lead to secondary tumors.
Cancer cells can get into your bloodstream through angiogenesis, which creates new blood vessels in the body. Scientists are looking at ways to promote and block angiogenesis to develop drugs that will prevent this from occurring. These drugs could prevent cancer from spreading or growing to other areas of the body.
Metastatic Pleural Mesothelioma
For years, doctors thought that pleural mesothelioma was localized cancer with limited ability to spread to other parts of the body. But a 2012 postmortem study of 320 mesothelioma patients showed that 55% of them had their cancer spread to distant sites.
Another review of 170 patients who died of mesothelioma determined that the common sites for mesothelioma to spread to were:
- Liver (60%)
- Adrenal glands (31%)
- Kidneys (30%)
- Opposite lung (26%)
Mesothelioma spreading to the brain and central nervous system is rare, and only was seen in 3% of postmortem cases.
In stage 4 of mesothelioma, cancer spreads to the lymph nodes and beyond to distant sites at least in 10% of cases.
By the time most patients know they have mesothelioma, the cancer is in stage 3 or 4. It has already spread to the lymph nodes in many cases. If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, most treatments are only palliative to reduce pain and discomfort.
Metastatic Peritoneal Mesothelioma
In the early stages, peritoneal mesothelioma does not usually spread beyond the abdominal cavity, which contains the spleen, liver, stomach, liver, and intestines.
As the disease gets worse, cancer cells can spread to organs and distant parts of the body. About 50% of peritoneal cases have cancer that spread to other parts of the body at autopsy.
After cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, the most common sites of metastases for peritoneal mesothelioma is:
- Visceral peritoneal lining
- Abdominal lymph nodes
Other Factors That Influence Metastasis
Physicians use a mesothelioma staging system to determine how mesothelioma is progressing. Patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma at stage 1 have a low risk of metastasis. They also have the best prognosis of two or three years.
If the patient is diagnosed at stage 4, he is at the highest risk of cancer spreading into the lymph nodes and beyond to distant parts of the body. This is the hardest stage to treat because the mesothelioma has already gotten to vital organs. At this stage, mesothelioma treatment is just to reduce pain and symptoms. Life expectancy is less than a year.
The rate at which mesothelioma spreads and grows somewhat depends on the cell type of the cancer. Mesothelioma tumors with epithelial cells tend to be less aggressive and spread to lymph nodes and elsewhere more slowly.
But tumors consisting of sarcomatoid and biphase cell types spread faster to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
Symptoms of Metastatic Cancer
It can be hard for doctors to determine when mesothelioma has spread. In the case of the lymph nodes, they can take a lymph node biopsy to determine if mesothelioma has started to spread in the lymph system.
If metastatic cancer is occurring, it will usually cause symptoms in the location where cancer has spread. Doctors may discover that cancer has spread by doing imaging scans of other parts of the body.
- Metastatic liver cancer: Can cause abdominal pain, bloating, leg swelling, and jaundice
- Metastatic adrenal cancer: Can cause back pain, weakness in muscles, abdominal pain, weight loss
- Metastatic kidney cancer: Can cause pain in the neck, lumps on side or beck, anemia, high blood pressure, and bloody urine
- Metastatic brain cancer: May cause poor coordination, seizures, personality changes, memory loss, headaches, changes in vision
Mesothelioma always has the possibility of spreading in the lymph node system and throughout the body. But the chances of this happening are reduced if the cancer is caught early and treatment is initiated immediately.