Understanding Mesothelioma Prognosis, Life Expectancy & Survival Rate

Medical professionals use the terms life expectancy and survival rate 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.

Mesothelioma Prognosis

A qualified physician is the only person who can offer a prognosis, or the overall outlook of a patient with mesothelioma. Doctors base your prognosis on statistics gathered from others with your type of cancer and stage of disease.

It is only an assessment. There are people who have outlived their prognosis, and you might be able to improve yours by discussing it with your doctor.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is the estimated amount of time someone will live after diagnosis. It is measured in months and years.

Mesothelioma life expectancy statistics show:

  • Close to 40% of patients live one year or longer following diagnosis.
  • About one in 10 people live longer than three years after diagnosis.
  • Less than 10% survive after five years.

Remember, your mesothelioma specialist will determine your individual prognosis and discuss survival rate and life expectancy.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment
A 2016 Clinical Epidemiology study found mesothelioma patients who received no treatment lived an average of four months. In contrast, those who received chemotherapy lived an average of 12 months.

Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Survival rate is the percentage of people who survive for a certain period of time. These rates are usually measured in one-, three- and five-year increments.

For example, the one-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is approximately 38%. That means more than one-third of all patients will live one year or longer after their diagnosis.

Average survival for peritoneal mesothelioma, the second-most common type of the disease, is around one year with chemotherapy and six months without. The prognosis is much better for patients who qualify for surgery with heated chemotherapy. Half of all patients who receive this procedure live at least five years.

Doctor speaking with an older woman
Mesothelioma Expertise Matters
Mesothelioma specialists play critical roles in improving prognosis

Factors That Affect Mesothelioma Prognosis

A mesothelioma prognosis is heavily influenced by biological factors aside from the cancer stage. The most important of these factors are the cancer’s stage and cell type, and the patient’s age and gender.

Stage of Mesothelioma

Doctors describe how far the cancer has spread in terms of mesothelioma stages, ranging from stage 1 to stage 4 mesothelioma. A higher stage number means cancer cells have spread further throughout the body. This leads to a worse mesothelioma prognosis.

Recent survival statistics for pleural mesothelioma come from a 2016 Journal of Thoracic Oncology article that summarized treatment outcomes for patients who qualified for surgery. It included patients who appeared to have stage 3 disease based on imaging scans but were actually found to have stage 4 cancer during surgery.

Median Overall Survival of Pleural Mesothelioma
Stage 122.2 months
Stage 220 months
Stage 317.9 months
Stage 414.9 months
Source: Journal of Thoracic Oncology, 2016

Mesothelioma Cell Type

Mesothelioma cells can form in different patterns, which determine the cell type of the tumor. Epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common type as well as the easiest to treat. Sarcomatoid and biphasic mesothelioma are more resistant to treatment, which has a negative impact on survival.

Age

Younger patients usually have a better mesothelioma prognosis. Their bodies have stronger immune systems and a better ability to recover from surgery. More than half of patients under 50 live at least one year after a mesothelioma diagnosis, compared to less than one-third of patients over 75.

Gender

Mesothelioma statistics show women with pleural mesothelioma have a better prognosis than men because they respond to treatment better. Researchers suspect hormonal differences may play a role. A review of data from the National Cancer Institute shows that 16.6% of women with mesothelioma survived for five years, compared with only 6.8% of men.

How to Improve Your Mesothelioma Prognosis

While you can’t control your age, gender, cell type or cancer stage, there are steps you can take to improve your prognosis. Taking action to optimize your lifestyle and health care team may help you beat the odds and live longer with mesothelioma.

Seek Guidance from Mesothelioma Specialists

Working with a mesothelioma expert at a specialized treatment center is the best step you can take to improve your prognosis.

Pleural mesothelioma is rare compared to other cancers. Few doctors have the necessary tools or experience to diagnose and treat it effectively.

Mesothelioma specialists understand the intricacies involved in ensuring you have the best possible care. Undergoing the treatments they recommend could help you live longer.

Established Mesothelioma Treatments

People with early-stage tumors and the epithelial cell type can benefit from a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments such as radiation, immunotherapy and Tumor Treating Fields. This is called a multimodal approach. It is considered the gold standard for mesothelioma treatment, but only 10% to 20% of patients qualify for this aggressive treatment approach.

Patients who do not qualify for surgery may consider other multimodal plans that combine chemotherapy with Tumor Treating Fields, radiation therapy or immunotherapy.

Median Survival of Pleural Mesothelioma Patients According to a 2011 Study
With Surgical Treatment710 days
Without Surgical Treatment288 days
Source: Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology

Patients with late-stage mesothelioma usually benefit the most from palliative treatments. These focus on improving quality of life and controlling mesothelioma symptoms. Though palliative treatments aim to reduce pain and discomfort, they can also extend survival.

Consider Participating in a Mesothelioma Clinical Trial

Clinical trials test new and emerging treatment options. The National Institutes of Health maintains a list of clinical trials for pleural and peritoneal 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 cancer. Having good overall health and physical fitness will also help you endure the side effects of treatments.

  • To boost your immune system, eat a balanced, nutritious diet rich in vegetables and fruit and low in sugar and fat.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Talk to an oncology nutritionist who can recommend specific dietary changes that will strengthen your body.
  • Find simple ways to get regular, light exercise. Do things you enjoy to keep your mind engaged.
  • Get quality sleep — and plenty of it — to help your body recover from treatment.
  • If you’re a smoker, you can improve your lung function and overall health by quitting immediately.

Reduce Your Stress

Leading a low-stress lifestyle can improve how your body responds to cancer treatment. Take a look at the stressors in your life and see what you can do to manage them and reduce the frustration and anxiety you experience.

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Mesothelioma Remission and Recurrence

Remission is when a tumor shrinks or disappears from the body. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy can send mesothelioma into partial or complete remission.

Partial remission is when tumor size is reduced by at least 50%. Complete remission is rare with mesothelioma, but some pleural mesothelioma patients have lived for years in partial remission.

Unfortunately, sooner or later, mesothelioma usually comes back. This is called cancer recurrence. Certain clinical trials specifically look for patients with a mesothelioma recurrence to test innovative new therapies.

Outlook for Mesothelioma Patients

Currently, no mesothelioma prognosis includes the possibility of a cure.

As with any type of cancer, the best doctors can hope for is long-term remission. Pleural mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to treat, especially because it is usually caught in a late stage.

However, you can take inspiration from the stories of mesothelioma survivors who defied the generally poor prognosis for this disease.

Emily Ward, mesothelioma survivor

Emily Ward has gone into remission twice with pleural mesothelioma thanks to tumor-removing surgery and a heavy chemotherapy regimen. These treatments have helped her remain active in her community years after her diagnosis.

Randy Boudreaux, mesothelioma survivor, and his wife.

Randy Boudreaux was not eligible for surgery when he was diagnosed, and he did not respond well to chemotherapy. But then his wife found a specialist who prescribed him a new immunotherapy treatment, which restored much of his quality of life.

Kay Kilpatrick-Simmons, mesothelioma survivor, with her family.

Kay Kilpatrick-Simmons was determined to see her first granddaughter graduate high school, but it meant living with mesothelioma for six years after diagnosis. With a positive attitude, plus surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and cryoablation, she achieved her goal.

Rich DeLisle, mesothelioma survivor

Rich DeLisle sought out a mesothelioma expert for his treatment because he did not just want to live longer — he wanted to have the energy to travel the world. His insistence gave him the opportunity to make treasured memories with his family over the following years.