Stage IV mesothelioma is frighteningly deadly due to the fact that the cancer has affected the bloodstream. The cancer cells are carried through the blood and can reach any part of the body that may have been previously unaffected.
When someone is diagnosed with cancer, doctors must act quickly to determine how far the cancer has progressed, the treatments that can be used, and the patient’s life expectancy. This process needs to be done as soon as possible, especially if it is suspected that the patient has progressed to stage IV.
All forms of cancer are “staged” according to how far the cancer has spread or progressed. A lower stage means it has been caught early, and the patient usually has a good prognosis for treatment. Stage IV, however, is the most advanced; patients at stage IV have a long, painful fight ahead of them. For mesothelioma, the most common staging system used is the Butchart system. The Butchart system describes stage IV mesothelioma as a metastasized tumor that has spread from the point of origin to other parts of the body, including the bloodstream. While mesothelioma starts in the lung tissue and the lining of the lungs, in stage IV it has progressed throughout the chest and abdominal (peritoneal) cavities to the tissues, linings and even organs themselves. The heart may be affected, as well as lymph nodes throughout the body.
Stage IV Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Patients receiving a stage IV diagnosis are usually given a life expectancy of four months to two years. Mesothelioma develops over decades, and is usually not detected or found until the patient has progressed to stage III or IV. The signs and symptoms of the disease are similar to other illnesses and are usually not serious enough to warrant a test for cancer, allowing the cancer to progress to more deadly stages.
Treatments for Stage IV Mesothelioma
Some stage IV patients have had mesothelioma in the brain, liver and bones. Because of its extensive progression and presence in the body, surgery is usually not an option, as it puts the patient at risk and will not be effective. By the time a patient reaches stage IV mesothelioma, he or she is also not in very good health overall, so doctors do not want to put their bodies and health in any more danger than it already is. Operations open the body to potential problems, and the body needs all its strength to treat the mesothelioma as it is.
Patients receiving a stage IV mesothelioma diagnosis have limited treatment options. Traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can be pursued to help shrink the tumor and alleviate pain, but they may not get rid of the cancer entirely, as it is so far into the body and the bloodstream, at which point it may never be completely eradicated. Many patients choose treatments to treat the pain rather than the cancer, such as undergoing a procedure to remove the buildup of fluids in the lungs, tissues and abdomen, massage therapy, and other non-medical treatments. The doctors and oncologists will work together to find the right treatment plan for each stage of the mesothelioma patient.