Improving Your Prognosis

The general prognosis for someone diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma is often unfavorable. However, making informed decisions about treatment, lifestyle changes and overall health can improve both life expectancy and quality of life.

A prognosis is the likely outcome of a disease based on a diagnosis. A pleural mesothelioma prognosis usually is not favorable, but may vary depending on the stage of the cancer.

Diagnosing the cancer in the early stages offers a more hopeful outlook because doctors can still perform curative surgery to remove tumors.

People diagnosed with this type of asbestos-related cancer also can improve their survival rate. Many have lived well past their life expectancy by improving their overall health. That could include lifestyle changes, and following the advice of knowledgeable specialists and experts.

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Understanding Prognosis, Life Expectancy & Survival Rate

Medical professionals use these terms on a regular basis to discuss prognosis. Although they are similar, they are not interchangeable. Learning more about these terms may help you understand your prognosis a little better.

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One of the first steps to improving your prognosis is finding a specialist who is familiar with your specific diagnosis. Our team of dedicated patient advocates will help match you to a doctor based on your diagnosis and location.

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Circumstances That Affect Your Prognosis

There are a number of factors that determine someone’s individual prognosis. Some of these cannot be changed, including the cancer’s stage and cell type. But you have some control in modifying others to improve your prognosis if the right steps are taken.

Factors You Can Change

Overall Health

Generally, the healthier someone is, the better their body can defend against cancer. A strong immune system responds better to therapy, potentially increasing the effectiveness of treatments. If someone diagnosed with this disease is in good health, they may even be eligible for more aggressive forms of treatment, which may have a greater impact on life expectancy.

Treatment Options

When developing a treatment strategy, doctors will determine if someone with pleural mesothelioma is eligible for potentially curative treatments like surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Perhaps their cancer is more advanced, and palliative treatments that reduce pain and symptoms are best.

Lifestyle Changes

Personal lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, improving your diet and increasing your physical activity, could have a positive impact on your prognosis.

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Factors You Can't Change

In addition to the factors mentioned above, there are multiple aspects of your diagnosis that you cannot change. These factors include predisposed facts about you (blood charecteristics and gender) as well as the current state of your cancer (cell type and stage of cancer).

Blood Characteristics

Certain biomarkers found in blood may have an impact in determining a prognosis. Biomarkers like COX-2, MIB-1, white blood cells (WBC) and platelet counts have varying effects on prognosis. For example, high levels of the protein COX-2 could extend survival. These vary with each patient and could one day play a pivotal role in optimizing treatment plans for individual patients.

Stage of Cancer

Patients diagnosed with stage I or II generally have a better prognosis than patients diagnosed in stage III or IV. As the cancer progresses from one stage to the next, tumors grow larger and begin moving into other areas of the body. As this happens, it becomes more difficult to treat, significantly impacting prognosis.

Cell Type

Epithelial cell type carries the best prognosis because they respond best to treatment, while sarcomatoid cells generally do not. Biphasic cells are a combination of the two. Prognosis with this type depends on the ratio of cells present. A higher epithelial cell count improves prognosis.


Statistics show women with pleural mesothelioma have a better prognosis than men because they respond to treatment better. A review of data from the National Cancer Institute shows that 13.4 percent of women with pleural mesothelioma survive for five years, compared with only 4.5 percent of men.


Prognosis is better for younger patients. Some studies report that patients younger than 50 have a more positive prognosis.

Steps to Take to Improve Your Prognosis

Taking action to manage pleural mesothelioma can improve your prognosis and increase life expectancy. The steps you should consider: Detecting the cancer early, participating in clinical trials and considering all forms of treatment, among others

Seek Guidance from Specialists

A mesothelioma specialist or qualified treatment center will result in the best chance for improving a prognosis. Since this type of cancer is extremely rare compared to other cancers, not many doctors or cancer centers have access to necessary tools or enough experience to diagnosis and treat it accurately. Specialists are the only ones who truly understand the intricacies involved in ensuring you have the best possible care.

Sometimes finding a new doctor can be a stressful task, but it shouldn’t be. That's why our free Doctor Match program is dedicated to finding the right specialist for your specific diagnosis. We can also help you locate top mesothelioma treatment centers. Although a majority of cancer centers are located in the Northeast, other specialty centers are found across the country.

Detect the Cancer Early

The earlier this cancer is detected, the better the body will respond to treatment. If you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, make sure you mention it to your doctor. Have them routinely check for any signs of asbestos-related disease. Try to give your doctor as much information as you can about your past exposure.

Participate in Clinical Trails

Clinical trials test new and emerging treatment options. Those who participated in clinical trials have improved their prognosis and even reached remission. The U.S. National Institutes of Health reports that in 2014 there could be as many as 52 different clinical trials for pleural mesothelioma in various phases and in multiple trial sites across the U.S.

Take Care of Your Overall Health

The healthier you are, the better your body can fight against the cancer. A stronger immune system reacts better than a weakened immune system to treatment options like chemotherapy.

To maintain your health, consider visiting your doctor yearly for preventative measures. Ask for an annual physical examination, and keep tabs on your cholesterol, blood pressure and overall health.

Consider All Your Treatment Options

Pleural mesothelioma treatments are always improving and evolving. Someone diagnosed with this cancer has more options than before, including curative and palliative choices. A 2011 study found median survival for patients treated with surgery was 710 days compared to 288 days for patients who didn't undergo surgery.

Another potentially curative treatment consists of any combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which is called a multimodal approach. Alone, each of these treatments can improve life expectancy. Combining them has proven effective and is associated with a higher survival rate than any singular treatment.

Meanwhile, a palliative treatment aims to improve overall quality of life by managing bothersome cancer symptoms. This may include non-curative surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Quality of life may be further improved with complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) like massage, acupuncture, nutritional therapy and meditation. Patients can consult a holistic doctor for advice.

Adjusting Your Lifestyle

Other lifestyle changes that can improve your prognosis: Dietary changes, increasing daily activity and making smarter, healthier choices. Talk to an oncology nutritionist who can recommend dietary changes that strengthen your body to fight this disease.

Although smoking is not a risk factor for this type of cancer, nonsmokers typically have a better prognosis than smokers. A 2006 report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry confirms that when a cigarette smoker is exposed to asbestos, their risk of lung cancer increases by 50 to 84 times.

Please consult our Patients Advocates who will provide free assistance like explaining the differences in treatment options each type of doctor offers, and answering any other medical question you may have about pleural mesothelioma.

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