Life expectancy is understandably one of the first things a patient will wonder about after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Of course, life expectancy and your prognosis, in general, will depend upon several contributing factors—one of which is the locations of mesothelioma you have.
There are three main mesothelioma locations:
Pleural: Most common type of mesothelioma, found in the linings of the lungs as well as the wall of the chest.
Peritoneal: For of cancer that affects the linings of the abdomen, caused by ingesting asbestos.
Pericardial: An extremely rare form of mesothelioma. Develops in the lining of the heart.
Pleural mesothelioma patients have a median survival time of approximately 12 months. That said, there have been some cases of patients surviving significantly longer than this. For patients who do not undergo treatment, the median survival time is just half a year. As you can see, the right treatment plan is critical to improving prognosis and life expectancy.
The diagnostic approach for pleural mesothelioma begins when a patient brings up related symptoms to their doctor. The doctor will look to confirm the diagnoses through a series of tests such as imaging diagnostic tests, biopsies, and blood exams. The only known cause of pleural mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, so that fact also impacts how the diagnosis is confirmed.
What is Life Expectancy?
Life expectancy refers to the prediction of how long a patient will live after being diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. The following chart displays the median life expectancy for various stages of pleural mesothelioma. As you can see, the later the stage (or more advanced the cancer is), the shorter the predicted life expectancy. Median life expectancy shows that 50% of patients will live longer than this time prediction and 50% will live less.
|Stage||Median Life Expectancy for Pleural Mesothelioma|
Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment and Life Expectancy
Early stage (stage 1 and 2) pleural mesothelioma patients are more receptive to therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Multimodal treatment, which combines these two types with surgical procedures, has been shown to be the most effective approach to treating pleural mesothelioma. On their own, these treatments can be used to improve quality of life, but together they can increase life expectancy as well.
The median survival time for patients with pleural mesothelioma who receive surgical treatment is more than one year longer than patients who don’t. Still, patients who don’t qualify for aggressive treatment can still improve their comfort and potentially their prognosis through other treatment approaches.
Survival Statistics for Pleural Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma survival rates are related to life expectancy, but the term differs somewhat. Survival rates are statistics-based numbers which showcase the survivorship of patients with comparable prognosis. To find these rates, doctors must assess patient data from those who were diagnosed in past years. That way, they can not only use survival rates to predict life expectancy, but they can also see patterns of survivorship over the years. As it stands, survival rates for mesothelioma patients are improving over time due to advancements in treatment.
Doctors refer to the 5-year survival rate as a yardstick when discussing survival rates. This displays the percentage of patients who live 5 years or longer after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Current data indicates that the 5-year survival rate in mesothelioma patients is anywhere between 5 and 10 percent.
Although survival rates are informed by scientific data, they do not necessarily mean that any particular patient cannot live longer than predicted. Not only is the data not totally current, but it also includes data from patients with differing situations—such as patients who did not undergo treatment, didn’t receive the latest treatment, or didn’t work with a mesothelioma specialist.
As a result, it’s useful to keep in mind that survival rates are just a measuring mark, not an unchangeable fixture of your prognosis. Individualized factors and your treatment plan can all increase your chances of survivorship.
Biological factors such as your age, gender, lifestyle habits, and general health can affect your life expectancy. Younger patients tend to respond better to treatments due to their high immunity and ability to recover. The same goes for people in good health pre-diagnosis when compared to those with certain existing illnesses.
Women also tend to receive better prognosis, potentially due to hormone differences in men and women. Likewise, patients who lead healthy lifestyles and don’t smoke are more likely to qualify for a greater abundance of treatment options, improving their likelihood of surviving longer.
Because pleural mesothelioma is typically very hard to detect in its early stages, the process for diagnosing pleural mesothelioma can be quite long. In the early stages, symptoms can be hard to detect or completely unnoticeable. If they are not, the process can still be lengthy, as patients will first go to their regular doctor.
The signs of pleural mesothelioma can be mistaken for other, less severe conditions. As a result, hindrances to early detection are fairly standard.
If signs of mesothelioma are found, patients are often sent to a pulmonologist (respiratory doctor) and then a general oncologist. The next step—and a highly important one—is to find a mesothelioma specialist to aid you in your treatment.
A pleural mesothelioma specialist will help open your eyes to all your treatment options and the pros and cons of each. They will advise you on which treatments you qualify for, and demonstrate in their care their advanced knowledge of this rare cancer type.
While general oncologists are highly informed on state-of-the-art cancer treatments and can apply much of their expertise to your needs, we highly recommend finding a mesothelioma specialist to oversee your care, or at least provide a second opinion. Because mesothelioma is so rare, often only the specialists are aware of the latest standards in treatment, recent advancements, and the detailed, complex nature of the disease.
Coping with Pleural Mesothelioma
Discussing life expectancy for pleural mesothelioma is a tough topic. There will be emotional hurdles for you and those close to you, but remember that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to rely on your support system and ask for their help. There are counseling options for you and your family as well. It can also be helpful to discuss your experience with other people who have experienced mesothelioma.
Don’t neglect to take care of your own needs. Take part in activities you love, socialize, and avoid stressful situations wherever you can. Try to maintain a healthy diet and stay well-rested. A little exercise here and there can also be helpful to improve your strength, endurance, and release mood-boosting endorphins.
Perhaps most importantly, talk with others when you feel comfortable. Your doctor, care team, loved ones, and community are all willing to help. You might be surprised to find just how much care, love, and support awaits you. Communicate and don’t hesitate to ask for additional advice or resources if you need them.
Contact Mesothelioma Help Now today if you have any questions about your mesothelioma diagnosis and the resources available to you. If you’re looking to learn more about your life expectancy and what you can do to improve it, we can help you find the right mesothelioma specialist for you. Simply call our Patient Advocates at (800) 584-4151.