Mesothelioma is an extremely rare and aggressive cancer. Like all types of cancers, if it is not treated timely, the cancer can spread and overtake different parts of the body.
An important note is the lymph nodes, which may be a sign that mesothelioma has spread to other areas of the body.
When mesothelioma begins to spread throughout the body, doctors call this mesothelioma metastasis. Once metastasis occurs, treatment becomes significantly more challenging. Treating mesothelioma is complex due to the rarity of the cancer and long latency period. It becomes especially difficult to treat once mesothelioma has spread and reached stage 3 or stage 4, which are defined by cells in the lymph nodes.
What Are Lymph Nodes?
Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures in the lymphatic system. The key functions of the lymphatic system are to maintain fluid levels in your body, absorb fats from the digestive tract, protect the body against foreign cells, and transport and remove waste and abnormal cells from the lymphatic fluid.
Lymph nodes serve as a filter for substances traveling through the lymphatic fluid. They also produce lymphocytes (white blood cells, such as T cells) to help the body fight off infection and disease. Clusters of lymph nodes can be found in the neck, underarm, chest, abdomen and groin.
There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the body, all connected to each other by lymph vessels that collect and filter lymphatic fluid away from tissue.
How Does Mesothelioma Spread to Lymph Nodes?
Mesothelioma can metastasize to many different parts of the body by traveling through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. If the cells go through the lymphatic system, they are likely to end up in the lymph nodes.
Most of the time, diseased cells, like mesothelioma cells, are filtered out by the lymph nodes and killed before they can start growing elsewhere. However, there is a chance that mesothelioma cells can bypass the lymph node filtering process and settle in lymph nodes closest to the tumor site.
Where Are Mesothelioma Lymph Nodes Located?
There are lymph nodes near the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma, which forms in the thin lining around the lung cavity, can spread to the lymphatic system and invade the lymph nodes near the lungs.
There are also lymph nodes in the abdominal cavity. Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the thin tissue lining that encompasses this cavity. Peritoneal mesothelioma can spread to these nodes, another sign of metastasis.
How Do I Know If Mesothelioma Has Spread to My Lymph Nodes?
There are a few ways to confirm if mesothelioma has spread to the lymph nodes. Since normal and healthy lymph nodes are so small, it is easy to know when there is an infection. When there is an infection in the lymph nodes, they can swell. If they are near the surface of the skin – such as lymph nodes in your neck – you may be able to feel or see them. However, infected lymph nodes do not always swell and can sometimes go unnoticed.
The best way to know if mesothelioma has spread to the lymph nodes is to do a biopsy. Doctors may remove multiple lymph nodes when taking samples of tissue. Removal of one lymph node is considered a biopsy, while the removal of multiple is considered a lymph node dissection.
Mesothelioma in the lymph nodes has an increased risk of recurrence. By undergoing a lymph node biopsy or dissection, your doctor will better understand which treatment is best.
Treatment for Mesothelioma Metastasis
Once mesothelioma enters metastasis, it is considered an advanced stage of mesothelioma. The more advanced mesothelioma becomes, the more challenging treatment becomes.
Patients with advanced mesothelioma are eligible for fewer treatment options because of how widespread the cancer is. At this stage, the patient’s health is a significant factor for treatment eligibility.
Treatment for mesothelioma depends on the patient’s and doctor’s preferences. Some mesothelioma specialists push strongly for chemotherapy and radiation, while some advocate for aggressive surgeries.
Mesothelioma is a devastating disease. Navigating a diagnosis and treatment can be stressful and overwhelming.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, get connected with our patient advocates. They are extremely knowledgeable on mesothelioma and asbestos illnesses and can help answer any of your health related questions. MesotheliomaGuide offers a free book that explains everything about mesothelioma. Get your free guide and other free resources from Mesothelioma Guide today.
Sources & Author
Lymph node. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/lymph-node. Accessed: 10/14/22.
Lymph Nodes and Cancer. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/understanding-your-diagnosis/lymph-nodes-and-cancer.html. Accessed: 10/17/22.
Lymphatic System. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21199-lymphatic-system#:~:text=%C2%B7,larger%20vessels%20called%20collecting%20ducts. Accessed: 10/17/22.
Sources & Author