Classifications of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma, like most forms of cancer is further distinguished into stages indicating the disease’s development. The stage of the cancer is a way of determining the patient’s prognosis, as well as possible treatment options. While staging systems are varied and somewhat complex, doctors have devised a more simplistic reference concerning mesothelioma classifications; mesothelioma can be referred to as resectable, unresectable, and recurrent.
Mesothelioma is classified as resectable if all of the known tumors, visible through imaging tests, can be removed by surgical means. Stage I mesothelioma is the most likely to be deemed resectable, as there is a better chance of removing all of the tumor or cancerous cells at this time. For those diagnosed in the later stages of cancer surgery is more likely to be palliative, and the benefits short term. Although not typical, sometimes those with stage II and III mesothelioma can be labeled as resectable. Several factors are considered when considering whether or not the cancer can be removed. Those factors include the tumor’s size, metastasis, the subtype of the tumor, the location of the malignancy, and the patient’s general health. The American Cancer Society notes that patients with peritoneal mesothelioma in the early stages may benefit the most from surgery.
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The following surgical procedures are the most common methods in resectable mesothelioma cases:
- Pleurectomy—a procedure that removes part of the lining of the lungs known as the pleura.
- Decortication—the surgical removal of an organ’s surface layer, membrane, or fibrous covering.
- Extrapleural Pneumonectomy—a surgery used during which part of the lung’s lining, part of the lining of the heart, part of the diaphragm, or the diseased lung is removed. This aggressive form of surgery could also include a combination of any of those removals.
Unfortunately, even when mesothelioma is labeled resectable it can be a difficult cancer to treat.
When mesothelioma is classified as being unresectable it is usually once the disease has progressed to the later stages. Unresectable mesothelioma is that which cannot be removed by surgical means. This could be due to the metastasis of the malignancy to other organ systems or possibly the lymph nodes, or because the patient is not healthy enough to undergo surgery. Traditional treatment options for unresectable mesothelioma usually include chemotherapy and radiation. Treatment of unresectable mesothelioma normally involves methods aimed at symptom relief and making the patient more comfortable.
Recurrent mesothelioma refers to mesothelioma that returns after treatment. Recurrence is either local or distant. Local recurrent mesothelioma means the cancer is located within or in proximity to its point of origin. Distant means indicates the malignancy has returned and metastasized to other organs and bodily systems. Unfortunately, mesothelioma tends to be a recurrent type of cancer and treatments are generally palliative in nature. Subsequent treatments after mesothelioma has been labeled recurrent will be dependent on factors such as the cancer’s location, the overall health of the patient, and those treatments already used. Sometimes, with recurrent mesothelioma, clinical trials are an option to be considered, as they may be able to offer new methods when other have been unsuccessful.
Only a physician or other licensed specialist can diagnosis mesothelioma and determine patient prognosis and treatment options. Despite the classification of mesothelioma diagnosed, the disease currently has no known cure.