After an individual has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the next step is to determine what stage the mesothelioma is in. The mesothelioma staging process is based on whether or not cancer has spread throughout the body. X-rays, PET Scans, MRIs, and CT Scans are used to determine what stage the cancer is in. Once the stage is determined, then a treatment plan can be implemented.
There are three staging systems: the Butchart, TNM, and Brigham. However, only pleural mesothelioma has a staging system as the other forms of mesothelioma don’t. According to the American Cancer Society, the TNM staging system is the most common system used when determining what stage the cancer is in.
TNM Staging System
This system is based on three distinct pieces of information: the spreading of the primary Tumor, if cancer spread to the Lymph Nodes, and if cancer Metastasized and spread to other organs. Cancer can spread through the body through blood, tissue, and the lymphatic system.
The TNS staging system goes even further by placing numbers with the corresponding TNM letters to determine the magnitude of each category. Once the numbers are determined, the information is processed and an overall stage is assigned to the patient. The following is a basic outline of the TNM staging system according to the ACS:
- TX – can’t be determined
- T1 – no main tumor
- T2 – spread to either the diaphragm or lungs
- T3 – spread even beyond the lungs and diagram throughout the chest cavity
- T4 – grown too much to be completely removed through surgery
- NX – lymph nodes can’t be assessed
- N0 – no cancer in lymph nodes
- N1 – spread to lymph nodes within the lungs
- N2 – spread to other lymph nodes on the same side of the tumor
- N3 – spread to lymph nodes on both the same and the opposite sides of the tumor
- M0 – no spread to other distant organs
- M1 – spread to distant organs
- Stage 1 – T1, N0, M0
- Stage 2 – T2, N0, M0
- Stage 3 – (T1 or T2, N1 or N2, M0) or (T3, N0 to N2, M0)
- Stage 4 – (T4, any N, M0) or (Any T, N3, M0) or (Any T, any N, M1)