Pleural Mesothelioma Statistics & Facts
At least 75 percent of mesothelioma cases diagnosed every year develop in the pleura. Facts and statistics help patients understand who gets pleural mesothelioma and how it is treated.
Many years of scientific research have proven exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of pleural mesothelioma.
In 1935, a pathologist in London was the first to suggest a connection between asbestos exposure and pleural mesothelioma. Research has since shown that 2-18 percent of workers heavily exposed to amphibole asbestos end up developing pleural mesothelioma.
Surgical treatment of pleural mesothelioma began in the 1940s, radiation therapy began in 1950s and chemotherapy began in 1970s. In 2003, the FDA approved a combination of two chemotherapy drugs as the first official first-line treatment for mesothelioma.
Today, the cancer is primarily treated with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. Clinical trials are testing new treatment options, such as immunotherapy, with increasing success.
Pleural Mesothelioma Facts
Learning pleural mesothelioma facts helps patients understand more about the disease including who gets diagnosed, how it affects patients and the top treatments.
Who Gets Mesothelioma?
People who worked with asbestos products for years have the highest risk of developing pleural mesothelioma. Jobs in the following industries were among the most likely to expose workers to asbestos:
- Industrial work
- Paper milling
- Steel milling
- Auto manufacturing
- Railroad work
- Insulation work
What Are the Most Common Symptoms?
The most common pleural mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest-wall pain
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma typically do not develop until the cancer has reached stage 3 or 4. Difficulty breathing and chest-wall pain are the two most common initial symptoms. At least one of these symptoms occurs in 60-90 percent of pleural patients.
How Does Cell Type Affect Patients?
Pleural tumors are composed of cells that fall into different categories including epithelial and sarcomatoid.
- Epithelial cells are the most common and respond the best to treatment.
- Sarcomatoid cells are the least common and the most resistant to treatment.
- Biphasic tumors are composed of both epithelial and sarcomatoid cells.
What Are the Most Common Treatments?
The only FDA-approved treatment for pleural mesothelioma is chemotherapy with cisplatin and Alimta (pemetrexed).
- Chemotherapy is the most common treatment.
- About 15 to 20 percent of pleural mesothelioma patients qualify for surgery.
- Radiation therapy is typically used in patients who qualify for a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. In some cases, it is used to shrink painful chest-wall tumors.
- Experimental treatments such as immunotherapy and gene therapy are available through clinical trials.
What Factors Affect Prognosis?
Several factors play a role in how long people live with pleural mesothelioma:
- Cell type: Epithelial tumors are associated with longer survival.
- Stage: Early-stage diagnosis can improve prognosis.
- Overall health: Good health helps people live longer.
- Sex: Women tend to live longer than men.
- Age: Younger people live longer with pleural mesothelioma.
- Cell counts: White blood cell count and platelet count affect survival.
Pleural Mesothelioma Statistics
Learning more about pleural mesothelioma statistics gives patients a better grasp on how rare the cancer is, how much time passes before it begins to develop and how long most people live with it.
What Is the Incidence?
Pleural mesothelioma makes up approximately 75 percent of the 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed every year in the United States.
According to a 2015 study that evaluated more than 14,000 cases of pleural mesothelioma diagnosed between 1973 and 2009:
- Approximately 78 percent of cases were diagnosed in men and 22 percent in women.
- About 59 percent of patients were diagnosed in stage 4.
- Roughly 77 percent of patients were diagnosed too late to qualify for surgery.
What Is the Latency Period?
The latency period is the time it takes for inhaled asbestos fibers to cause the damage that leads to mesothelioma. The latency period for pleural mesothelioma is slightly longer on average compared to peritoneal mesothelioma.
- The average latency for all cases combined is 20 to 50 years.
- The latency period associated with pleural mesothelioma is approximately 30 to 60 years.
- The latency period is closer to 20 to 40 for peritoneal mesothelioma.
What Is the Survival Rate?
Most people with pleural mesothelioma live less than a year after diagnosis. A 2010 study evaluated nearly 10,000 pleural mesothelioma cases and reported the following overall survival rates:
- 55 percent lived more than six months
- 33 percent lived more than one year
- 5 percent lived more than five years
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology broke pleural mesothelioma survival down by stage at diagnosis.
More Pleural Mesothelioma Resources
Pleural mesothelioma resources offer evidence-based information about the cancer. The resources on these pages will help you understand what the cancer is, how it is treated and what you can do to live longer.
February 4, 2019
11 Cited Article Sources
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- Baldi, A. (Ed.). Mesothelioma from Bench Side to Clinic. New York: Nova Biomedical Books, 2008
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