Getting a diagnosis of mesothelioma is terrifying, whether you are the victim or a loved one watching it all unfold. While it’s tempting to give into the overwhelm, don’t. Remember that knowledge is power, and the more information you have, the greater your chance of mitigating the cancer and later getting any legal compensation you’re owed.
Before you can consider treatment or litigation, however, it’s critical you fully understand the different types of mesothelioma. These can be broken down in several ways: by stage, by the location in the body and by cell type. Understanding how each of these works is the first step in understanding the diagnosis that affects you and doing something about it.
While it might be frightening to read about mesothelioma and cancer, don’t wait. You need information now, and we’re here to provide it.
Types of Mesothelioma by Stage
The first way in which you can break mesothelioma down is by stage. There are four stages of cancer, and this type is no exception. They are determined by the size of the main tumor, whether it has spread to lymph nodes and whether it has spread to other organs and the rest of the body. Note that the stage does not change, even if the cancer gets worse. The patient keeps the stage they received when they were first diagnosed forever.
The phases are:
- Stage I: The cancer is in one location. In the case of mesothelioma, this is most commonly the lining of the lungs, but may also be the lining of the heart, stomach or testicles.
- Stage II: The cancer is still located near the point of origin, but may have invaded the organ further. In the case of mesothelioma (though not all cancers), it has also spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III: The cancer is larger and has grown into nearby structures and lymph nodes, but may still be removed by surgery.
- Stage IV: The cancer can no longer be removed by surgery and is likely located on both sides of the body.
Some medical experts use an alternate staging system, the TNM system. In this breakdown, T refers to the size of cancer, N refers to whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes and M stands for the cancer spreading to other parts of the body. In this staging system, the diagnosis might look like T2 N1 M0.
These stages apply to every cell type and location in the body.
Types of Mesothelioma by Location
There are four main places in the body where mesothelioma can take root. While it is possible to have more than one type of mesothelioma by location, this is uncommon. Usually, the cancer arises in one place and then metastasizes in Stage III.
Most people associate mesothelioma with lung cancer, and indeed, this is the most common location for it to arise. In fact, roughly three-quarters of cases are in the lungs – known as pleural mesothelioma. The name comes from the lining of the lung cavity, which is known as pleura. In order to determine the presence of mesothelioma, doctors must take a tissue sample, though they can often identify the disease with a fair degree of accuracy through CT or MRI scans.
This is the next most common type after pleural mesothelioma, representing about 10 percent or more of cases. This one is less specific, referring as it does to the peritoneal mesothelium in the peritoneal cavity, in which the organs live. This membrane may surround the organs themselves or line the abdominal wall. Peritoneal mesothelioma may affect one or more organs, usually manifesting as a thickening of the lining, but sometimes causing small tumors as well.
Pericardial mesothelioma is rare, affecting the lining of the heart cavity. This accounts for around 1 percent of all cases, but is the most common cause of cancer of the heart. The only way to properly diagnose this cancer is to remove a tissue sample through thoracotomy, a surgical incision into the chest wall. While this is an extremely invasive surgery, doctors will likely recommend it if they suspect this malignant mesothelioma type.
While there have only been 100 or so cases of testicular mesothelioma ever reported, it’s worth being aware that this kind can arise. Doctors do not fully understand either the cancer type or its best treatment methods, so when it does arise, the prognosis is typically not good. In order to make the diagnosis, doctors may use either biopsy or ultrasound.
Types of Mesothelioma by Cell
The last way to divide mesothelioma is by cell type. There are three main cells that can make up mesothelioma tumors: epithelial, sarcomatoid and biphasic. As the name suggests, the latter is a combination of epithelial and sarcomatoid cells. Physicians use these classifications to determine what type of tumor the patient has, which in turn directs the course of treatment.
Sarcomatoid and epithelial cells differ in their resistance to treatment, with sarcomatoid mesothelioma being significantly less likely to respond. Depending on the location in the body, one cell may be more likely than the other.
For instance, in pleural mesothelioma, the easier-to-treat epithelial cells make up the tumor 50 percent of the time, with biphasic coming in at 30 percent and sarcomatoid only 20 percent of the time. In peritoneal cancers, epithelial cells are 75 percent likely, giving patients with this cancer type a better chance of response. Numbers vary for the other two less common types, and given their rarity, we don’t have firm percentages.
Treatment for Mesothelioma
The type of mesothelioma – both stage, location and cell – will determine the course of treatment. In addition to natural remedies, the medical community relies on three main therapies. These include:
- Surgery: If mesothelioma is caught early enough, doctors may be able to remove it through surgery. Depending on the location, they’ll use different approaches, but the goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
- Radiation: This therapy relies on x-rays, protons and other types of EM radiation to target and kill cancer cells. It hasn’t proven very successful with peritoneal mesothelioma, but the other types seem to respond well.
- Chemotherapy: Large doses of chemicals may also be used for treatment. These chemicals kill cancer cells, though they also kill healthy cells, which makes it important for the patient to use the most effective drugs: usually cisplatin and pemetrexed for pleural mesothelioma, and gemcitabine, pemetrexed, mitomycin and carboplatin for peritoneal mesothelioma.
Now that you have a more thorough understanding of this disease, you have a better chance of making the right decisions on behalf of your own health or a loved one’s. Get in touch today with more questions or for additional help.
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