In the United States alone, about 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma per year. The average death rate of mesothelioma per year is 2,500 people. While a diagnosis is rare, exposure to asbestos affects 14 to 30 people out of a million every year.
Fast Facts About Mesothelioma
- Most people are diagnosed because they suffer from seemingly unrelated symptoms.
- Mesothelioma is typically diagnosed 10-50 years after initial exposure.
- Mesothelioma is so rare that most doctors have never seen it in patients. Only specialists can diagnose mesothelioma.
- Men are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed than women.
- About 75% of mesothelioma cases start in the chest cavity.
- It’s highly likely that mesothelioma could be mistaken for lung cancer at first.
- 43,000 people worldwide are estimated to lose their lives every year due to mesothelioma.
- Most forms of mesothelioma are occupational and are contracted because of the patient’s job or former job.
Asbestos Facts and Statistics
Asbestos, a known carcinogen in humans, is not a banned substance in the United States despite its clear health risks. While several organizations are working to ban it entirely, several industries still use asbestos under strict government regulation.
Common occupations exposed to asbestos include:
- U.S. Navy Veterans
- Oil refinery workers
- Automobile mechanics
- Construction workers
- Railroad workers
Asbestos use and production were at its peak in the United States from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, with a slow tapering in the 1970’s until most usage stopped before the 1990’s.
About 11 million people are estimated to have been exposed to asbestos from 1940 to 1978.
Mesothelioma Diagnosis Rates
Commonly, mesothelioma is misdiagnosed due to its rare nature and the effectiveness of testing done during examinations. Cytology tests are usually given by doctors because they are less invasive, fast and inexpensive. They are, however, much less effective at diagnosing mesothelioma than a histology test.
If you or a loved one think exposure to asbestos is possible, talk with your doctor about the options for tests and lab work.
Cytology tests (fluid tests) will:
- Accurately diagnose mesothelioma in patients 32% of the time
- Suggest the correct diagnosis of mesothelioma 52% of the time
Histology tests (biopsies) will accurately diagnose mesothelioma 98% of the time. Because of the high accuracy rate, histology tests are best for confirming a diagnosis.
Mesothelioma Prognosis Facts
Generally, “Rust Belt” and port states have 2-4 times higher mortality rates from mesothelioma.
In a 9 year period from 2001 to 2010, the highest number of deaths occurred in:
- California: 2,637
- Florida: 1,713
- Pennsylvania: 1,711
- New York:1,443
- Texas: 1,307
Average survival rates for mesothelioma patients is 12 to 21 months after a diagnosis, with an exception of 5-10% of survivors living for up to 5 years after a diagnosis. Age of diagnosis and survival rates have been proven in studies to be strong factors in longer rates of survival.
Multimodal therapies have various effects on survival rates depending on the stage of the mesothelioma.
Median survival rates for trimodal therapies are generally:
- Overall: 17 months
- Stage one: 22 months
- Stage two: 17 months
- Stage three: 11 months
General survival rates—as studied from 1973-201—have remained steady. Patients surviving up to 5 years are usually diagnosed early or at a young age. Studies also show that patients that receive surgery often live longer than patients not eligible for surgery to remove the tumors.
Another factor to consider when looking at survival rates is not only the stage of the mesothelioma but the type and the types cells.
There are 3 main types of mesothelioma, which include:
- Pericardial mesothelioma: Tumors and nodules that surround or form near the heart. Pericardial mesothelioma is very rare, and only appears in about 1% of all cases.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: Tumors and nodules in or near the abdomen. Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for about 20-25% of all cases.
- Pleural mesothelioma: The most common form, pleural mesothelioma tumors and nodules surround and invade the lungs and nearby areas. This accounts for 75-80% of all mesothelioma cases.
The cell types of mesothelioma are:
- Sarcomatoid (fibrous): which account for 10%
- Mixed (biphasic): which account for 30-40% percent of all cases
- Epithelioid: which account for 50-60% percent of all cases
Survival rates for patients with epithelial mesothelioma generally have a more favorable prognosis than patients with biphasic or sarcomatoid mesothelioma.
Median survival rates for each cell type are:
Most tumors that form in the pleura surrounding the lungs are benign, but 1 out 10 tumors are cancerous and develop into mesothelioma.
Survival Rates for Surgery Patients
While surgery is not an option for all patients, statistics show that patients eligible for surgery tend to have a better prognosis.
In one study of 64 mesothelioma patients that had a pleurectomy with decortication performed, the following statistics were observed:
- There was a 50% recurrence rate for patients with tumors
- There was a 14% 5-year survival rate for patients with all forms of mesothelioma
- A median survival rate of 21.7 months occurred in patients with epithelial mesothelioma
- A median survival rate of 5.3 months occurred in patients with biphasic and sarcomatoid mesothelioma
- For epithelial mesothelioma patients, there was a 46% 5-year survival rate
For patients with epithelioid mesothelioma especially, survival rates are much higher when they are eligible for a pleurectomy with decortication. The opposite was found for patients with biphasic and sarcomatoid mesothelioma, whose survival rates dropped significantly (often due to complications from the surgery).
Mesothelioma Research Update
Studies were conducted to review the difference between extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and pleurectomy with decortication (P/D). Results were similar, with a general 2-year survival rate. Short term deaths within this study occurred within 30 days (1.7% in P/D patients, and 4.5% in EPP patients).
International Mesothelioma Statistics
It is impossible to clearly understand and record the scope of mesothelioma cases and deaths globally. While global estimations are projected that as many as 43,000 people die from mesothelioma, it’s estimated that 10,000 cases per year can be attributed to Western Europe, North America, Japan and Australia.
Mesothelioma deaths have been included in the World Health Organization (WHO) mortality database since 1994, which only records deaths from its Member States.
Banned in 55 countries, which accounts for 16% of the world population, asbestos is still largely prevalent in most countries.
Statistically, trends in mortality rates are influenced in high-income countries which report 88% of all mesothelioma deaths. Studies report that these numbers (per year) have decreased in the United States and increased in both Japan and the United Kingdom.
Countries with the highest mortality rates from mesothelioma are:
- United States
- United Kingdom
A shift in this statistic may be occurring toward countries that are using asbestos on a more current basis, including countries in Asia and middle- to low-income countries.
On the opposite side of this scale, low mortality rates are reported from:
- Central Europe
- Several countries in Asia
For more information on mesothelioma diagnoses, contact our Patient Advocates today.