When a cancer like mesothelioma spreads from the area in which it originated, this is referred to as metastasis. The National Cancer Institute says there are three ways that cancer spreads in the body:
- Through tissue – Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
- Through the lymph system – Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
- Through the blood – Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.
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A Single Damaged Cell Is at the Root of Mesothelioma Metastasis
The primary mesothelioma tumor develops from one normal cell that was genetically damaged. The damaged cell becomes a cancer stem cell that has re-coded with instructions to produce more malignant cells. These cancer stem cells have the ability to divide and produce cells without any interference from the normal body mechanisms that control cell growth. They continue to create more new cancer cells in the same location, and when enough of these cells collect, it is referred to as a tumor.
Cancer cells may also infiltrate lymph nodes around the area where the primary tumor is located. If the cells do spread to area lymph nodes, it doesn’t automatically mean that a second tumor is in the process of developing. However, lymph node involvement does mean that the patient’s chances for a good outcome have decreased.
Localized Versus Distant Mesothelioma Metastasis
The secondary or metastatic tumor can be localized, meaning it spreads in the area near the primary tumor, or it can spread to organs or lymph nodes far from the primary tumor, which is called distant mestastasis.
However, mesothelioma metastasis doesn’t necessarily follow an orderly pattern. In a study titled A case of localized malignant pleural mesothelioma, researchers reported on a case of a 74-year old man who presented with an abnormal chest shadow. A CT scan showed a mass five centimeters in diameter attached to the pleura.
A biopsy was performed twice, but they couldn’t arrive at a clear diagnosis. The patient was given chemotherapy for advanced stage lung cancer, but it was not effective. Additional tests were performed that looked for biomarkers that are associated with particular diseases, and they discovered the cancer was pleural mesothelioma. There was local tumor invasion and metastasis in the lung and brain, without the typical spread across the pleural surface that is associated with mesothelioma of the pleura.
Mesothelioma Metastasis and Surgery
The diffuse spread that is characteristic of pleural mesothelioma is the reason treating it presents such difficulty.
In an article titled Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: A Comprehensive Review, researchers from the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute explained that although complete surgical removal is theoretically the most effective treatment, it rarely happens because of the diffuse spread of malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Individuals suffering from mesothelioma were often exposed to asbestos in workplaces without adequate containment procedures in place. If you've been diagnosed with mesothelioma or have been exposed to asbestos in the past, contact our experienced Florida mesothelioma attorneys for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.