Stage 2 mesothelioma means tumors may not have spread, but cancer cells are entering nearby lymph nodes. Prognosis at stage 2 may still be favorable, and there are plenty of treatments available to extend life expectancy. The 2-year survival rate for some patients at this stage is around 38 percent.
In stage 2, tumors have developed in the pleura, or the protective tissue lining around the lungs. The cancer may have started to grow into the breathing muscle under the lungs (the diaphragm) or into the lung tissue itself.
The main difference between stage 1 and stage 2 pleural mesothelioma is that by the second stage, cancer cells have begun to spread into lymph nodes near the main tumor site.
Your lymph nodes are a series of filters that keep germs out of your bloodstream. When cancer cells start to move through the lymphatic system, it increases the risk they will eventually spread into the bloodstream and throughout the body.
Once mesothelioma cells have spread to lymph nodes, the case is considered stage 2 or higher, even if the main tumor growths are still very small.
While peritoneal mesothelioma has no formal staging system, doctors may similarly refer to it as stage 2 if there is local tumor growth and some lymph node involvement.
Stage 2 patients who are healthy enough to endure an aggressive treatment plan can benefit from an approach called multimodal therapy.
This approach combines tumor-removing surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This combination is currently the gold standard for mesothelioma treatment, and it has helped some patients live years beyond the average prognosis.
Early-stage patients often have a number of promising experimental therapies available to them as well.
In most cases, stage 2 mesothelioma does not cause symptoms.
If symptoms do arise, they are easily mistaken for signs of the flu or pneumonia. Rather than an infection, the discomfort stems from tumor growth or a buildup of fluid in the pleura (known as pleural effusion) constricting the lung.
Some stage 2 cases are discovered through cancer screening, but more often they are caught by accident when a doctor checks a patient’s chest for an unrelated reason.
Because of the long latency period of mesothelioma, it usually takes decades for people to feel the effects of harmful asbestos exposure. Most mesothelioma cases are diagnosed after the cancer has already advanced beyond stage 2.
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Doctors have developed three staging systems for pleural mesothelioma. The TNM system is the most commonly used today. The three systems use different definitions for stage 2.
TNM Staging System: Mesothelioma is in the pleura on one side of the chest, and it may have begun to spread into tissue in the lung or diaphragm. Cancer has also spread to nearby lymph nodes, but it has not spread to distant sites.
Brigham Staging System: Tumors are confined to the pleural lining of the lungs, and nearby lymph nodes are cancerous.
Butchart Staging System: Cancer has grown from the pleura into the chest wall, and it may also have spread into the diaphragm, the organs between the lungs, or the lymph nodes of the chest.
Even with minor lymph node involvement, there are usually many treatment options available to early-stage mesothelioma patients.
There are two main surgical options for removing pleural mesothelioma tumors. The difference comes down to whether or not surgeons have to remove one of the patient’s lungs to eliminate all the cancer.
Each patient’s medical team must create a treatment plan based on the patient’s overall health and how far the cancer has spread.
Chemotherapy drugs administered through an IV are the most common treatment for mesothelioma.
Doctors may use drugs to shrink tumors before surgery or kill remaining cancer cells after surgery. Patients not eligible for surgery may benefit from chemotherapy as a solo treatment.
Like chemotherapy, radiation can also be used to shrink tumors before surgery or prevent local recurrence after surgery.
Though clinical trials, patients can access new therapies the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved for mesothelioma treatment. These experimental treatments include immunotherapy, gene therapy and novel combinations of chemotherapy drugs.
Patients often have to be relatively healthy to volunteer for these research studies, which is why it is a great opportunity for many people diagnosed with stage 2 mesothelioma.
Stage 2 mesothelioma carries a better prognosis than more advanced stages of the cancer, but there is currently no cure.
Pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive disease. Most patients do not survive longer than two years after diagnosis.
Doctors and researchers are constantly testing new types of cancer drugs in hope of finding a way to control and ultimately defeat mesothelioma.
Many mesothelioma specialists are also trying to perfect their treatment strategies so they can help patients manage this cancer as a chronic disease rather than a terminal illness. Their efforts have resulted in some fortunate mesothelioma survivors outliving the average life expectancy for mesothelioma by years.
|2-year survival rate||5-year survival rate|
An individual patient’s life expectancy depends on many factors, especially their overall health and the specific cell type of their cancer.
Based on the statistics from thousands of patients who were diagnosed with stage 2 pleural mesothelioma in the recent years, we can calculate what percentage survived at least two years and what percentage survived at least five years.
These survival rates reveal the seriousness of this diagnosis. But because every patient is different and treatment technology has changed since these statistics were collected, these survival rates cannot predict the outcome for an individual patient.
Karen Selby joined Asbestos.com in 2009. She is a registered nurse with a background in oncology and thoracic surgery and was the director of a tissue bank before becoming a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. Karen has assisted surgeons with thoracic surgeries such as lung resections, lung transplants, pneumonectomies, pleurectomies and wedge resections. She is also a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators. Read More