What Is Stage 4 Mesothelioma?
Stage 4 mesothelioma generally refers to malignant (cancerous) mesothelioma that has spread from the location where it first appeared to distant parts of the body.
Depending on the type, mesothelioma may first appear in the:
- Pleura: The lining of the lungs and chest wall
- Peritoneum: The lining of the abdominal cavity
- Pericardium: The lining of the heart
- Tunica vaginalis: The membrane lining the testes
Stage 4 mesothelioma is the final stage of mesothelioma under the tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging system. In the United States and many other countries, the TNM system is the most widely used system for measuring how far most cancers have progressed.
Doctors use the TNM system to help malignant pleural mesothelioma patients understand the extent of their cancer, how long they can expect to live, and what treatment options may help.
Stage 4 Pleural Mesothelioma
The only officially staged type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma. Stage 4 pleural mesothelioma is described as cancer that has used lymph nodes or blood vessels to travel to distant parts of the body, forming new tumors.
At this advanced stage, life-extending treatments may be extremely limited or unavailable.
Stage 4 Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma has no official staging system. However, some oncologists (cancer doctors) have proposed a staging system for peritoneal mesothelioma that has yet to be approved by the TNM staging system’s creators, the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and the International Union Against Cancer (UICC).
Under this unofficial staging system, stage 4 peritoneal mesothelioma involves extensive tumor spreading.
Stage 4 Pericardial Mesothelioma
Pericardial mesothelioma is a rare form of the cancer, affecting the lining of the heart. Because it is so uncommon, doctors have not been able to properly stage it. Pericardial mesothelioma is typically described as late-stage or advanced rather than as “stage 4.”
Stage 4 Testicular Mesothelioma
Like pericardial mesothelioma, testicular mesothelioma is very rare. It may be described as late-stage or advanced.
Quick Facts About Stage 4 Mesothelioma
- According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), only 8% of mesothelioma patients with distant or stage 4 mesothelioma survive 5 years after diagnosis.
- Unlike many other forms of cancer, stage 4 mesothelioma tends to remain in the body cavity it originated in. For example, pleural mesothelioma often remains in the chest.
- During stage 4, mesothelioma has usually spread too far for patients to undergo life-extending surgery. However, chemotherapy and treatment through clinical trials may help.