Butchart Staging System

Butchart Staging System  is the oldest formal mesothelioma staging system proposed in 1976, relying on determining the location of the primary tumor mass in the body for each stage. It does not consider into account the tumor size, the amount of cancer cells present or the overall level of cancer in the patient’s body.

Cancer treatments are typically used to prolong the life of patients, as well as diminish the symptoms for a better quality of life. In the case of mesothelioma, sadly the warning signs remain latent for decades, anywhere from 20-50 years. Thus, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma must determine the stage of their cancer, and create the best possible treatment plan depending on the progression of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the tissue (mesothelium) surrounding the body’s internal organs, such as the lungs (most common form, called pleural mesothelioma), the heart, and the stomach. The mesothelium produces a fluid that allows the organs to move smoothly, such as the lungs do during breathing. However, as the cancer progresses through the stages (I-IV), the severity increases and therefore so must the course of treatments.

Approximately 2,000-3,000 Americans are affected each year, and as time continues the number of cases are on the rise. Currently, asbestos exposure is the number one cause of mesothelioma, since the asbestos fibers lodge themselves into the mesothelium, and can not be expelled naturally by the body. The fibers cause scarring and cell damage, which eventually turns into cancer. Unfortunately, the warning signs take many years to appear, and are commonly mistaken for more general illness such a s the flu, bronchitis, and colds.

Understanding which stage of cancer you have can greatly affect the course of treatments you select. For each case, the decision is a very personal one, typically depending the age and physical health of the patient, as well as the patient would like to spend your time with family and friends.

The oldest method, and still used today, is the Butchart staging system was created by M.D. And cardiothoracic surgeon Eric G. Butchart in the 1970’s. It is liked by many in the medical profession for the simplicity it offers, as well as the relevance to prognosis. The Butchart staging system is based on the extent of the primary tumor mass within the body. This system primarily ignores secondary tumors and some of the medical complications caused by the presence of cancer in the body. The Butchart system divides the cancer into four specific stages.

Stage I

The cancer (mesothelioma) cells are present in the right or left pleura, and potentially in the lung (pericardium) and/or the diaphragm (the muscle that separates the abdomen).

Stage II

Mesothelioma cells have now spread and penetrated the chest wall or the food passage connecting the throat and stomach (esophagus, heart, and pleura on both sides). Additionally, the lymph nodes in the chest may also be infected.

Stage III

In this stage, the mesothelioma has now invaded through the diaphragm and into the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), also potentially involving the lymph nodes beyond the chest as well.

Stage IV

Distant metastases has occurred, which means that the mesothelioma has traveled to other distant organs via the bloodstream.

The Butchart Staging System includes several tests and procedures, such as a chest x-ray, CAT scan, MRI, and endoscopic ultrasound. Once the mesothelioma stage has been determined, the next step is to explore treatment options. As with most forms of cancer, the variety of treatments extends from traditional methods, to experimental and holistic forms. Most commonly, patients chose a few types of treatments in hopes of capitalizing on the benefits of each. Nevertheless, knowing the stage of cancer narrows the field of treatments, and betters the prognosis. The Butchart staging system offers a clear understanding of the mesothelioma progress within the body.