If you’ve been diagnosed with stage 3 mesothelioma, you still have treatment options that can improve your quality of life. At this stage, your prognosis is better than patients diagnosed with stage four, because the mesothelioma hasn’t spread beyond one side of your body, or to lymph nodes located at a distance from the primary tumor.
Treatment options are limited at this stage of mesothelioma, but there are still potentially life-saving treatments available in clinical trials. Clinical trials are where specialists test novel treatments.
Quick Facts About Stage 3 Mesothelioma
- A stage 3 tumor has spread from the lining of the lung to the chest wall, the lung, and lining of the heart.
- Cancer cells invade nearby lymph nodes on one side of the chest.
- Stage 3 patients who are in good overall health may still be eligible for curative treatment.
- Receiving a stage 3 diagnosis could limit your treatment options. As a result, you should always confirm your diagnosis with a second–opinion from – an experienced doctor.
Stage 3 Symptoms
Stage 3 symptoms are more noticeable than those caused by stages one or two, but can still feel like symptoms from other diseases, like pneumonia or bronchitis. At this stage of the disease, patients usually seek medical attention and are subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Most stage 3 symptoms are caused by tumor growth, which produces excess fluid, scarring, and inflammation in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. The collection of excess fluid puts pressure on the lungs and organs in the abdomen. Scarring and inflammation restrict the movement of the lining o f the lungs, causing pain and breathing difficulty. Specific symptoms caused by stage 3 mesothelioma include:
- Dyspnea, or shortness of breath
- Pained breathing
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
- Stomach pain
Your Treatment Options
Your doctor will determine if you’re healthy enough for curative treatment like surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. If you are, multimodal therapy may be a good option to improve your prognosis. If you aren’t, he or she will recommended palliative treatments, which they’ll use to relieve pain and discomfort caused by symptoms of mesothelioma.
Depending on your state of health, you can have either chemotherapy or radiation therapy as a palliative treatment. Doctors use both to shrink and slow the growth of mesothelioma tumors. Doing so relieves the pressure caused by large tumors, build ups of excess fluid, and inflammation. If you do have chemotherapy as a palliative treatment, you’ll most likely receive it in pill form, or intravenously through an IV. The most common chemotherapeutic drugs used for stage 3 patients include gemcitabine, carboplatin and cisplatin; doctors often combine two of these drugs for a greater effect.
Like chemotherapy, radiation therapy shrinks tumors, but in a more targeted manner. Doctors use concentrated beams of radiation to kill cancer cells and keep the growth of tumors in check. Being able to focus the cancer–killing effectiveness of radiation on a tumor cuts down damage to healthy cells and, as a result, reduces side effects.
Palliative Surgery for Stage 3 Mesothelioma
If your doctor doesn’t clear you for curative surgery, you still have palliative surgery as a treatment option. Doctors use palliative surgery to relieve discomfort caused by symptoms of mesothelioma, improving your quality of life. Palliative procedures doctors use to relieve stage 3 symptoms include:
Pleurodesis: a pleurodesis prevents excess fluid from collecting in the lining of your lungs. Your doctor accomplishes this by introducing an irritant into the pleural cavity, the space between the inner and outer parts of your lung’s lining. This irritant—which is usually talc, a form of iodine, or an antibiotic—causes inflammation that fuses both parts together, disallowing any more fluid from collecting in the pleural cavity.
Thoracentesis: a thoracentesis drains excess fluid from the pleural cavity. Paracentesis: a paracentesis drains excess fluid from your abdominal cavity, the space between the inner and outer parts of the lining of your abdomen.
Pericardiocentesis: a pericardiocentesis drains excess fluid from your pericardial cavity, the space between the inner and outer part of the lining of your heart.
Stage 3 by Staging Systems
TNM System, Stage 3: In stage 3 of the TNM system, the mesothelioma has spread from the lining of one lung throughout the chest on one side of the body. It has also spread into the lining of the heart, the surface of the heart itself, ribs, and nearby lymph nodes.
Brigham System, Stage 3: At stage 3, surgical removal is no longer a possibility due to the tumor’s advanced metastasis throughout the chest cavity and nearby lymph nodes.
Butchart System, Stage 3: At stage 3 of the Butchart system, the tumor has spread from the lining of the chest to the lining of the abdomen, or vice versa. It may also have spread to lymph nodes located at a distance from the area where the tumor first appeared.
Improve Your Prognosis
The average life expectancy for a patient diagnosed with stage 3 mesothelioma ranges from 6 to 12 months. If you’ve been diagnosed with stage 3 mesothelioma, you can improve your quality of life with palliative treatments. Curative treatment may not be an option at this stage, because the mesothelioma has spread too far for it to be effective. Your doctor will, however, determine which treatments you’re eligible for, and may enroll you a clinical trial, where you can access new, emerging treatments that may improve your prognosis.