People who have worked in certain industries, such as construction and mining, may suffer from long-term conditions affecting the lungs and other organs in the body. This comes from continuous exposure to asbestos, which was historically used in building materials, such as insulation and floor tiles.
One of the most common conditions stemming from asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, or cancer of the membranous lining surrounding the lungs, heart and stomach. Mesothelioma has four stages, and when caught early, has a better prognosis for those diagnosed with this form of cancer.
Determining a stage
Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to find out the stage of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. This will tell physicians if it has spread to other areas of the body and to what extent. Staging is based on criteria, such as the size of the main tumor and whether it has spread to nearby structures. Physicians will then look at whether the lymph nodes closest in proximity to the tumor have been affected. Finally, they will check to see if the cancer has spread to distant sites of the body.
Naming the stage
Just like other types of cancer, the stages of mesothelioma vary from one through four. Stage one indicates that the cancer has not spread very far and is somewhat contained. Stage four, on the other hand, indicates that the cancer has spread over a wide area of the body. There may also be a letter after the stage telling whether the cancer is an initial tumor (T), in the lymph nodes (N) or metastasized to other areas (M).
Treatment options for mesothelioma include radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. Physicians will customize a treatment plan based on your stage of cancer, area infected and area of spread. It is important to inform yourself about mesothelioma in order to maximize your prognosis.