Mesothelioma Stages

Stages of mesothelioma are used to describe how far cancer cells have spread throughout the body. While only pleural mesothelioma uses an official staging system, other forms of this cancer are classified as early or late stage.

If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible to pursue compensation that can help pay for medical expenses. Call (800) 326-8900 now to see if Simmons Hanly Conroy can help your family.

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Stages of Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lungs and accounts for 80-85% of all mesothelioma cases. This cancer has four distinct stages that are used to identify how advanced the disease is.

Each stage is categorized by the TNM system, which was created by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). TNM stands for tumor, nodes and metastasis.

The TNM system analyzes: 

  • The size of the main tumor (T)
  • The spread of the cancer to nearby lymph nodes (N)
  • Whether or not the cancer has metastasized to different parts of the body (M)

Unfortunately, because symptoms may not appear for 10-50 years after initial exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma is often not diagnosed until it’s spread throughout the body.

An earlier mesothelioma diagnosis often allows for a greater range of treatment options.

An image depicting a few cancer cells forming in the lining of a lung

Stage 1 Mesothelioma

In stage 1 of pleural mesothelioma, the cancerous tumor remains localized in the lining of the lungs. The cancer has not yet spread to the lymph nodes or other organs.

Treatment options for pleural mesothelioma in stage 1 include:

  • Surgery to remove the tumors
  • Chemotherapy to kill remaining cells after surgery
  • Radiation therapy to shrink the tumors before surgery or reduce the risk of the tumor returning after surgery

The average life expectancy for stage 1 pleural mesothelioma patients is about 21 months.

An image depicting a tumor growing within the lung

Stage 2 Mesothelioma

When mesothelioma tumors grow larger and start to invade other areas of the body, doctors define this as stage 2 pleural mesothelioma.

Treatment options for stage 2 pleural mesothelioma may include: 

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery to remove the affected lung and its lining if the tumor has spread to the lung tissue or diaphragm

The average life expectancy for stage 2 pleural mesothelioma patients is about 19 months.

An image depicting cancer cells and tumors across a lung

Stage 3 Mesothelioma

In stage 3 pleural mesothelioma, mesothelioma cancer cells have invaded an entire area of the body. Tumors may grow into nearby organs, and cancer cells may travel through the body via the lymph nodes.

Treatment at stage 3 focuses on pain relief and extending life expectancy: 

  • Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy may be used
  • Palliative care can ease pain and other symptoms
  • Surgery is only recommended for patients in good health

The average life expectancy for stage 3 pleural mesothelioma patients is about 16 months.

An image depicting cancer cells and tumors across one lung and into the second lung

Stage 4 Mesothelioma

Stage 4 pleural mesothelioma occurs when tumors begin forming in multiple areas of the body.

Treatment options for stage 4 mesothelioma are limited:

  • Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy may slow cancer growth and alleviate symptoms
  • Palliative care options to ease or manage pain
  • Surgery usually isn’t possible since the cancer has spread throughout so many different parts of the body

The average life expectancy for stage 4 pleural mesothelioma patients is about 12 months.

Other Types of Mesothelioma Cancer Stages

In addition to pleural mesothelioma, there are three other types of this cancer. Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the lining of the abdomen and makes up 10-15% of cases each year.

Pericardial mesothelioma, which forms in the lining of the heart, and testicular mesothelioma, which forms in the lining of the testes, both account for less than 1% of cases.

These types of mesothelioma are only defined by two stages:

  • Early-stage mesothelioma is typically equivalent to stage 1 and stage 2, when mesothelioma tumors have not yet traveled to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body
  • Late-stage mesothelioma is similar to stages 3 and 4, when mesothelioma tumors have spread to distant parts of the body and may be more difficult to treat

The symptoms may vary based on the type of mesothelioma you have and the stage the cancer is at.

Get Help from Our Mesothelioma Lawyers

At Simmons Hanly Conroy, our mesothelioma lawyers have decades of experience working with mesothelioma patients and their families.

We understand just how expensive mesothelioma treatments are, which is why we strive to get our clients the most amount of compensation possible as quickly as possible. 

As a leading national mesothelioma law firm, Simmons Hanly Conroy has recovered over $9.7 billion for individuals and families devastated by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

For decades, asbestos companies put people at risk with their dangerous products. Our mesothelioma lawyers work to hold these companies responsible for their greed — and help families find the financial security they deserve.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma at any stage, call (800) 326-8900 now for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Hear from a Stage 4 Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor

For over 40 years, John did residential, commercial and industrial construction work. While on the job, he was exposed to asbestos routinely — but no one warned him about the dangers of exposure.

Decades later, John was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Sadly, because of the long latency period of this cancer, symptoms didn’t appear for years, allowing the cancer to spread.

“They did a CT Scan. Then we went in for the results. That’s when he just said, ‘You have stage 4 mesothelioma, John.’ We were shocked.”
– Dee, John’s Wife

By working with Simmons Hanly Conroy, John and his wife Dee were able to hold the companies responsible for his exposure accountable and secure financial compensation for treatment.

“Hiring Simmons Hanly Conroy was the smartest thing we ever did.”
– John, Mesothelioma Patient & Firm Client

Thanks to the treatment he received, John has been a stage 4 pleural mesothelioma survivor for several years now.

Read John's Story
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Mesothelioma Progression & Stages FAQs

How fast does mesothelioma progress?

Mesothelioma tends to spread very quickly. While it is considered an aggressive disease, seeking treatment from mesothelioma specialists may help to slow the spread of cancer cells throughout the body.

Call (800) 326-8900 now to get help finding a mesothelioma specialist and pursuing compensation to help pay for your treatments.

What are the stages of mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma has 4 official stages that describe how far the cancer has progressed throughout the body.

The pleural mesothelioma stages are:

  • Stage 1: Cancer forms in the lining of the lung
  • Stage 2: Cancer spreads to nearby lymph nodes
  • Stage 3: Tumors have grown and cancer cells invade an entire area of the body
  • Stage 4: Tumors form in multiple areas throughout the body

For all other types of mesothelioma, doctors categorize the disease as early stage or late stage depending on if the cancer has begun to spread throughout the body.

What should I expect in stage 4 of mesothelioma?

In stage 4 mesothelioma, the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, which may cause additional symptoms to develop.

Some late-stage mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Excessive sweating
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

Talk with your doctor about what you’re experiencing, so they can help manage your symptoms.

Can mesothelioma go into remission?

Yes. Although rare, it is possible for mesothelioma treatment to be effective enough that cancer cells are no longer growing. A mesothelioma specialist can develop a personalized treatment plan to best address your situation.

If you need help finding a specialist, contact us now for free. Our on-staff nurses can help connect you with a mesothelioma doctor and cancer center near you.

Simmons Support Team
Amy Fair R.N.Reviewed by:Amy Fair R.N.

Director of Medical Relations

  • Fact-Checked
  • Medical Reviewer

Amy fills a unique role helping guide patients and families through the often confusing and overwhelming steps following an asbestos-related cancer diagnosis. Assisted by 14 medical assistants and a Licensed Practical Nurse, Amy and her medical team provide healthcare information and explain treatment options to those recently diagnosed and throughout the progression of their disease.

View Sources
  1. American Cancer Society. “Malignant Mesothelioma Stages.” Retrieved from: Accessed on January 1, 2024.
  2. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Stages.” Retrieved from:,19393-1. Accessed on January 1, 2024.
  3. Frontiers in Oncology. “New Perspectives on Diagnosis and Therapy of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on January 1, 2024.