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Stage I Mesothelioma

Patients who are diagnosed with stage I asbestos cancer are considered to be in the earliest stages of the disease. This makes the cancer highly treatable and possibly curable.

There are four stages to asbestos cancer, ranging from one, which is the most treatable, to four, which is considered to be the most serious. Stage I mesothelioma patients have more available treatment options and a greater life expectancy because the cancer has not spread.

Stage I cancer is considered a rare diagnosis because the disease is typically undetectable until the later stages. It.s often discovered accidentally in stage I.

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Patients who are diagnosed in stage I have the longest life expectancy of all mesothelioma patients which is around about 40 months. This is far longer than the average survival rate for most asbestos cancer patients, which is 4 to 18 months.

In addition to the spread of the disease, other patient factors affect the prognosis. This includes age and general health.

Stage IA and IB

Stage I mesothelioma is the only stage that is divided into two categories: IA and IB. It.s divided to describe the way the tumors are growing on the pleural lining.

The pleural lining is the thin lining of tissue that surrounds the chest, abdominal area and heart area individually. The inner layer of the pleura that sits closest to the organs is called the visceral pleura. The outer layer is called the parietal pleura. When the tumors form on the outer layer, the cancer is stage Ia. When the tumors have spread to the inner layer, the diagnosis is IB.

What Does Stage I Cancer Look Like?

On imaging scans, such as MRIs or CT scans, stage I asbestos cancer might look like the pleural lining has thickened. Other signs include an accumulation of fluid between the pleural layers, called a pleural effusion. Since the cancer is just beginning to develop, there may be small tumors along the pleural lining or nothing at all. There are no tumors on the organ walls.

Stage I According to Staging Systems

TNM, Butchart and Brigham have slightly different ways of defining stage 1 cancer. It.s important to have your doctor explain which staging system is used and why. This will help you have a better understanding of the circumstances.

  • TNM System - This staging system attempts to classify the cancer according to tumor (T), lymph node involvement (N) and metastasis (M). This system is commonly used for the pleural and peritoneal varieties of the disease. Using the TNM system for pleural mesothelioma, stage I asbestos cancer is confined to one lung area, but may also be located on the diaphragm and the lining that surrounds the heart (pericardium). There is no lymph node involvement.
  • Butchart System - This is the oldest and most commonly used cancer staging system, but is only used for pleural mesothelioma diagnoses. In this system during stage I involvement, there are small tumors that are confined only to the lung area and possibly to the diaphragm on the same side.
  • Brigham System - As the newest staging system and designed exclusively for asbestos-cancer, this attempts to provide a standardization for all mesothelioma diagnoses. In stage I, the cancer is considered operable. There is no lymph node involvement.

Treatments for Stage I Cancer

Since stage I asbestos cancer is confined to one area, it is considered easier to treat than other stages of the disease. Doctors often give stage I patients a greater variety of treatment options:

  • Surgery - In this early stage, doctors can effectively remove the cancer with radical surgical procedures. One of those is called the extrapleural pneumonectomy. In this procedure, surgeons remove the injured lung and some surrounding tissue. Sometimes, the area is bathed in a heated chemotherapy bath with a goal of killing any remaining cancer cells. There are also less drastic surgical options, including a pleurectomy/decortication, which removes as much of the cancerous tissue as possible.
  • Chemotherapy - Following the surgery, patients often undergo chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  • Radiation - In some cases, focused radiation will be used to shrink any remaining tumors or to reduce the risk of a relapse.

The three procedures combined is call multimodal or trimodal therapy. It is considered the gold standard in asbestos-cancer treatment.


Cancer.gov. Stages of Malignant Mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malignantmesothelioma/patient/page2#Keypoint10

Texasoncology.com. Stage I-III Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://www.texasoncology.com/types-of-cancer/mesothelioma/stage-i-iii-malignant-pleural-mesothelioma/