When mesothelioma tumors start growing uncontrollably, cancerous cells begin to spread to other parts of the body. This is called metastasis.
What is Metastasis?
Difficulties Caused By Metastasis
Location and Cell Type
The cell type and origin of a patient’s disease have an effect on how fast mesothelioma will spread. For instance, in pleural mesothelioma, sarcomatoid cell types metastasize faster than epithelioid cells.
The farther mesothelioma spreads, the harder the disease becomes to treat. Because it affects overall health, patients whose mesothelioma has metastasized may not be strong enough to handle aggressive surgeries. However, there are some treatments available that can slow down metastasis.
A patient’s prognosis is inversely proportional to metastasis—greater metastasis means a shorter prognosis. Once the disease has metastasized, the goal of treatment is to prevent further metastasis and make the patient comfortable.
When mesothelioma spreads to a different organ it is still considered to be mesothelioma. For example, mesothelioma that spreads to the liver is not considered liver cancer. The cells in the newly developed tumor are still of a mesothelial type.
Metastasis corresponds with how advanced the mesothelioma is, which is denoted by staging. There are 4 stages of mesothelioma—stages 3 and 4 are considered metastatic mesothelioma.
Stage 3 Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is still confined to one side of the body, but tumors have spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma has metastasized to both sides of the body and has invaded multiple, possibly distant, organs. This is the most advanced form of mesothelioma.
Usually, the extent of a patient’s metastasis is used to estimate how advanced the diagnosis is, but there isn’t a standard staging system accepted for mesothelioma yet. This means that different doctors may have different criteria for what is considered stage 3 or 4.
Some doctors may favor a staging system based on the type of treatment acceptable for certain patients as well. This makes finding a specialist an absolute must for patients with advanced mesothelioma.