Stages of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma stages help doctors understand and describe how far the cancer cells have spread throughout the body. While pleural mesothelioma is the only type of mesothelioma that uses an official staging system, doctors still describe other types of mesothelioma in early or late stage.

Unfortunately, due to the long latency period of mesothelioma, many people are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread. The best way to improve life expectancy and manage mesothelioma symptoms is through treatment.

If you were exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with mesothelioma, Simmons Hanly Conroy may be able to help you fight for the compensation you need to pay for treatment.

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Mesothelioma Progression

Malignant mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos, is difficult to diagnose early because its symptoms may not develop until 10-50 years after initial exposure. By the time it is diagnosed, mesothelioma is incredibly aggressive and progresses quickly.

Pleural mesothelioma is the only type of mesothelioma with an official staging system from the American Joint Committee on Cancer. This staging system, known as the TNM (tumor, node, metastasis) system, categorizes pleural mesothelioma progression into four main stages.

The earlier the disease is detected, the higher the possibility for effective treatment.

Stage 1 Mesothelioma

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

As the most treatable stage of mesothelioma, it has a better survival rate. The most effective treatment plans for stage 1 mesothelioma have included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Surgery can remove the tumors, chemotherapy can kill remaining cells after surgery, and radiation therapy can be used before surgery to shrink the tumors or after surgery to reduce the risk of the tumor returning.

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

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Stage 2 Mesothelioma

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

Surgery to remove the tumor, combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, is still the most suitable treatment plan at this stage.

If the tumor has spread to the lung tissue or diaphragm, doctors may perform an extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery, in which the affected lung and its lining are removed.

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

Stage 3 Mesothelioma

In stage 3 pleural mesothelioma, mesothelioma cancer cells have invaded an entire area of the body, becoming locally advanced. Mesothelioma can progress to this point in several ways.

Either the main tumor grows large enough to put pressure on nearby organs and grow into them or cancer cells can break off the tumor, attach to lymph vessels and travel through the body via the lymph nodes.

If the cancer enters the lymph system or bloodstream, there is a good chance it may spread to distant organs.

At this stage, treatment typically focuses on pain relief and extending life expectancy. While surgical removal of tumors is possible, it is only recommended for patients in good health. Other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be considered optimal treatment methods.

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

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Stage 4 Mesothelioma

Once cancer cells reach the lymph nodes, it is incredibly likely for mesothelioma to spread to multiple areas of the body. Stage 4 pleural mesothelioma occurs when mesothelioma tumors begin forming in multiple areas of the body.

Because the spread of the disease is so extensive at this stage, few treatment options may have a profound effect on the cancer.

  • Surgically removing tumors is not usually possible at this stage because they have spread throughout so many different parts of the body.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be used to slow cancer growth and alleviate symptoms.

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

Other Types of Mesothelioma and Their Stages

Pleural mesothelioma is the only type of this cancer that uses an official staging system. However, some mesothelioma specialists may describe peritoneal, pericardial and testicular mesothelioma as early or late stage.

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 typically describes stages 3 and 4, when mesothelioma tumors have spread to distant parts of the body and may be more difficult to treat.

Get Help from Mesothelioma Lawyers

Treatment options at every stage of mesothelioma are expensive. You may be eligible for mesothelioma compensation that can help you pay for the treatment you need.

At Simmons Hanly Conroy, our mesothelioma lawyers have been working with victims of the disease and their families for nearly a decade and have become intimately familiar with the questions and concerns patients may have.

As a leading national mesothelioma law firm, Simmons Hanly Conroy has recovered over $9.1 billion for individuals and families devastated by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

For years, asbestos-product manufacturers put people at risk of their dangerous products. Through mesothelioma lawsuits and asbestos trust fund claims, we hold these companies responsible for their greed and help families find the security they deserve.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma at any stage, contact us today 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.

Mesothelioma Stages FAQs

How quickly does mesothelioma progress?

Mesothelioma is an incredibly aggressive cancer. Those who worked in high-risk asbestos occupations were put at tremendous risk of serious illness — though many won’t experience symptoms until 10-50 years after initial asbestos exposure.

For this reason, once mesothelioma is diagnosed, it spreads quickly. The best way to slow the spread of the cancer is to seek treatment from mesothelioma specialists with a deep understanding of the unique characteristics of this rare cancer.

Contact us today to get help connecting with a mesothelioma specialist and accessing the best treatment for you.

How many mesothelioma stages are there?

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

In its earlier stages, stages 1 and 2, mesothelioma is localized to one area of the body. However, in its later stages, mesothelioma cancer cells may spread to the lymph system and other areas of 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. Because it is impacting more areas of the body, additional symptoms might begin 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. It is important to work with a mesothelioma specialist to get the best treatment plan for you.

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 December 19, 2022.
  2. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Stages.” Retrieved from:,19393-1. Accessed on December 19, 2022.
  3. Frontiers in Oncology. “New Perspectives on Diagnosis and Therapy of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on December 19, 2022.