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Stage 3 Mesothelioma

In Stage 3 mesothelioma, the cancer has spread to nearby tissues, organs, and possibly to distant lymph nodes. Stage 3 is the most frequently diagnosed stage of mesothelioma, with a median life expectancy of about 16 months.

Defining Stage 3 Mesothelioma

In the four-tiered staging system that is used to classify the progression and severity of cancer, Stage 3 mesothelioma is considered an advanced stage of the disease, though it is not the most advanced.

Stage III Mesothelioma Illustration Lungs Icon
Stage 3 Mesothelioma

The primary characteristic that differentiates Stage 3 mesothelioma from other stages is that, in Stage 3, the cancer has spread to nearby areas. It may have spread to neighboring organs, tissues, and possibly nearby lymph nodes. However, in Stage 3, the mesothelioma has not yet spread to more distant regions of the body.

Various staging systems offer a somewhat different description of Stage 3 mesothelioma:

Butchart System

The disease has spread from the initial location in the pleural lining of the lungs, abdomen, and other areas. Lymph node groups may be involved as well.

TNM System

The cancer has spread to other locations in the thoracic cavity, like the diaphragm, esophagus, and possibly the heart. Lymph nodes are also involved at this stage.

Brigham System

Surgical resection is no longer possible, as the disease now impacts other organs in the chest cavity, as well as one or more lymph node groups.

Stage 3 Mesothelioma Symptoms

The symptoms of Stage 3 mesothelioma are usually pretty intense, due to the spreading of the disease beyond the area of origin. As metastasis continues, symptoms may increase significantly.

Typical Stage 3 mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Fatigue or general feelings of tiredness
  • Labored breathing or shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Weight loss
  • Fever

Prognosis of Stage 3 Mesothelioma

By the time mesothelioma has reached Stage 3, the prognosis is grim. Even if the primary tumor can be removed, cancer cells have most likely spread to other areas, and remission is unlikely.

The average life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient diagnosed at Stage 3 is about 16 months. However, the life expectancy of a particular patient depends on individual diagnosis, including the tumor cell type and location, as well as the patient’s gender, age, overall health, and other risk factors.

Stage 3 Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Because the mesothelioma has started to spread in Stage 3, the likelihood of a successful curative treatment is very low. In many cases, treatments are limited to palliative care, which is used to relieve discomfort and pain from the symptoms of the disease.

Conventional multimodal treatment plans that combine surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are not typically used for Stage 3 mesothelioma patients. Individual therapies, however, are sometimes used to manage pain and discomfort.


Surgery can be used to remove the main tumor; however, it is unlikely that it will remove cancer that has spread to the lymphatic system and other organs.


Chemotherapy can be used after palliative surgery to try to kill remaining cancer cells in the lymph nodes, blood, or other areas of the body beyond the initial location.


Radiation can prevent further metastasis, as well as target mesothelioma tumors. At Stage 3, radiation only provides a palliative option to reduce pain.

Mesothelioma Doctors

Experimental Treatments and Clinical Trials

Immunotherapy, gene therapy, and other forms of experimental mesothelioma treatment can offer possibly effective therapies through clinical trials. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Stage 3 mesothelioma, connecting with a cancer center can give you an opportunity to find an available clinical trial.

Financial Assistance for Stage 3 Mesothelioma

Medical expenses for treating Stage 3 mesothelioma can be prohibitive. In some cases, insurance companies might not pay for diagnostic tests, experimental treatments, or ancillary costs such as travel to and from cancer clinics.

Upon diagnosis, mesothelioma patients should consider taking steps to defray the financial difficulties associated with Stage 3 mesothelioma. Find out what kinds of financial assistance are available if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure.


Cao C., et al. Staging of patients after extrapleural pneumonectomy for malignant pleural mesothelioma—institutional review and current update. Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. 2011;12(5): 754-757. doi: 10.1510/icvts.2010.262972

Dodson R. and Hammar S. Asbestos: Risk Assessment, Epidemiology, and Health Effects. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis; 2006.

Galateau-Salle F. Pathology of Malignant Mesothelioma. London: Springer-Verlag London Limited; 2006.

Heelan RT, et al. Staging of malignant pleural mesothelioma: comparison of CT and MR imaging. American Journal of Roentgenology. 1999;172(4):1039-1047. doi: 10.2214/ajr.172.4.10587144

Rusch VW, Venkatraman E. The importance of surgical staging in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Journal of Thoracic Cardiovascular Surgery. 1996;111(4): 815-825.

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