Mesothelioma cancer stage 4 is a type of a rare and malignant cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure. In its most final stage, mesothelioma cancer can be very life threatening and can even be considered terminal.
Stage 4 mesothelioma cancer life expectancy is pretty low, usually spanning from four to twelve months since the diagnosis. In the most advanced stage of mesothelioma, the cancer has spread to other organs. There are some treatments available for patients with final stage mesothelioma, but in the most severe cases, palliative treatment is the best option.
Stages of Mesothelioma Cancer
Just like the other types of cancer, mesothelioma is divided into four stages. Cancer staging is an essential part of mesothelioma diagnosis because it helps determine the best treatment that will benefit the patients. Here are the four stages of asbestos cancer:
- Stage 1 = tumor grows along the lining of the lung, abdomen, pericardium, or testicular, depending on the type of Mesothelioma.
- Stage 2 = the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes near the initial organ.
- Stage 3 = the malignant cells have grown deeper into nearby organs and the other lymph nodes.
- Stage 4 = the cancer has metastasized and found in the distant organs.
Types of Mesothelioma Cancer
Mesothelioma is divided into four types depending on where the malignant cells grow for the first time. The severity of mesothelioma cancer stage 4 and how the patient responds to treatment also can be determined by the location of the cancer.
Pleura, the lining around the lung, is the most common location for mesothelioma to grow. Almost 75% of mesothelioma cases occur in this location. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include pain in the chest area and shortness of breath.
This type of asbestos cancer occurs in the peritoneum, the tissue that surrounds the abdomen. Only 10 to 20% of cases are diagnosed as peritoneal mesothelioma. The common symptoms of this cancer include abdominal pain and bloating.
This type of mesothelioma is rarer than the first two types. The malignant cells grow in the pericardium, the lining surrounding the heart. Only 1% of cases are diagnosed as pericardial mesothelioma. Since the cancer grows in such a vital organ, records show that the life expectancy of this cancer is six-month on average.
This is the rarest type of Mesothelioma and there are only less than 1% of cases reported. This cancer grows in the outer lining of testes. The symptoms include swelling and pain in the testicular area.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma Cancer Stage 4
One of the reasons why mesothelioma mostly has low survival rate is because the symptoms usually show up in the late stage of cancer. During the Stage 1 and 2, this disease usually shows no apparent symptoms.
Furthermore, mesothelioma doesn’t have any disease-specific symptoms. All the symptoms resemble the signs of other diseases. As a result, when the symptoms don’t really disturb their daily activities, the patients usually just brush them off and refuse to see the doctors. This is why so many mesothelioma cases are diagnosed late.
Therefore, if you have a history of asbestos exposure, it is best to regularly check your condition even before the symptoms show up. Here are some of the most common Stage 4 mesothelioma symptoms.
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Severe weight loss
- Chronic coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid buildup in the abdomen or chest area.
Life Expectancy of Stage 4 Mesothelioma Cancer
Study shows that the prognosis for advanced stage of mesothelioma is one year on average. Stage 4 mesothelioma survival rates are pretty low because the cancer is usually found during stage 4, when the cancer has spread too far to distant organs.
But the prognosis will differ from patient to patient. Here are some of the factors that influence final stage mesothelioma prognosis.
- Patient’s age: younger patients usually has a higher chance of responding well to the treatments compared to the older patients, especially if the young patient has a good health condition.
- Health condition: pre-existing conditions may affect the prognosis negatively. Patients with pulmonary diseases, diabetes, heart condition, or high blood pressure may have lower life expectancy after the cancer diagnosis.
- The location of the tumor: pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma usually have better prognosis. Unfortunately, due to the location and the effect the malignant cells cause to nearby organs, pericardium and testicular mesothelioma are more difficult to treat.
Even though mesothelioma cancer stage 4 has poor prognosis and most of the patients don’t respond well to some types of treatments, there are still many treatment options available. The doctors will prescribe the treatment according to the severity of the cancer and the overall health of the patient. Here are some of the most common treatments for advanced mesothelioma.
Chemotherapy is considered as the most effective treatment for stage 4 asbestos cancer. The drugs used in this treatment can slow the growth of the tumor, and even shrink it.
When the chemotherapy works and the tumor shrinks, patients may be qualified for surgery to remove some of the tumors. But chemotherapy can have such negative side effects, especially nausea and vomiting as well as infection. As a result, patients with bad immune system might not be able to continue this treatment.
Surgery might be difficult to perform in late-stage mesothelioma patients. Surgery also might not be able to remove all the tumors, especially if they have spread into the other organs.
When the tumor is still localized, chemotherapy may be done before surgery to shrink the size of the tumor. But when the tumor doesn’t shrink and the cancer is terminal, surgery is done to remove fluid buildup and reduce the symptoms and pains in the chest or abdomen area.
Radiation therapy is used to treat pleural, pericardial and testicular mesothelioma. This therapy is not the best option for peritoneal mesothelioma due to the risk of damaging the vital organs nearby.
Many clinical trials are available for mesothelioma cancer patients. Some of these trials show promising results. The doctors may determine whether the patients are eligible for this treatment. Some of the most popular clinical trials targeting metastatic cancer are immunotherapy, gene therapy, and multimodal therapy.
Living with Stage 4 Mesothelioma
In some cases, the cancer has developed to the most advanced stage that the patient doesn’t respond to treatment. When it happens, doctor will recommend palliative treatment. Palliative treatment intends to alleviate the pain and symptoms of mesothelioma that can affect the patient’s quality of life. Palliative procedure includes simple surgery to remove fluid buildup around the chest and abdomen area so that the patient can breathe more easily.
Mesothelioma is like a ghost that silently creeps on the patient’s life. The malignant cells can stay dormant in the body without symptoms for 20 to 50 years. But when the symptoms start to show, the cancer will develop rapidly. When the symptoms start, it is usually in the very late stage.
Therefore, anyone who has a history of asbestos exposure should regularly check their health to the doctor. When it is caught early, mesothelioma has a very good prognosis. Early treatment is required so that the cancer doesn’t grow into mesothelioma cancer stage 4.