Mesothelioma Prognosis and Survival Rates

Quick Summary

There are several terms used to describe a mesothelioma prognosis, which can be confusing to someone just learning about the topic. For example, the terms prognosis and diagnosis are quite similar but have very different meanings. Likewise, the phrases life expectancy and survival rate can understandably be somewhat puzzling.

Life expectancy refers to the length of time that a patient is expected to live. Life expectancy can be based on a variety of individual patient characteristics like race or gender.

On the other hand, survival rates refer to statistics that reveal the length of time mesothelioma patients will live after diagnosis.

Survival rates show the percentage of patients that participated in a study or underwent treatment that survived for a certain amount of time after diagnosis. Life expectancy draws from patient-specific factors, while survival rates draw on historical patient data and statistics.

Survival rates are broken down into specific categories, such as survival rates for early stage vs. late-stage patients and younger vs older demographics. Doctors consider survival rates when predicting life expectancy for patients.

How Survival Rates Are Determined

Survival rates for mesothelioma are usually discussed in terms of time. When you read about survival rates and mesothelioma, you may see rates of six months, one year, and anywhere from two to ten years.

Mesothelioma survival rates are usually lower than other forms of cancer because the disease is not diagnosed until it has become more advanced. Unfortunately, symptoms of mesothelioma do not appear until many years after the initial asbestos exposure occurred.

Survival rates for mesothelioma show that:

  • 55% of mesothelioma patients will live 6 months from the time of diagnosis
  • 33% will live 1 year after diagnosis
  • 9% will live for 5 years after diagnosis

These survival rates can vary based on the type of treatment and a number of other factors, including the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis.

Survival Rates Are Improving

Survival rates for both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma are improving. As new treatment approaches are introduced, survival rates are also positively impacted.

One example of a new treatment approach is the combination of cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). This has contributed significantly to the improvement of the prognosis for peritoneal mesothelioma.

Factors Affecting Survival Rates

Survival rates for mesothelioma are impacted by patient-specific characteristics like age, gender, and race. Of course, some standard factors are critical in determining and categorizing survival rates.

Critical factors include:

  • Mesothelioma location—pleural, peritoneal or pericardial
  • Disease stage (stages 1-4)
  • Cell type — epithelioid, sarcomatoid or biphasic

It’s clear that age plays a role because younger mesothelioma patients have a higher survival rate than older patients.

Over half of patients under the age of 50 will live for 1 year after diagnosis. Older patients are much less likely to live 1 year after being diagnosed.

Part of this is due to the greater number of aggressive treatment options that younger patients qualify for. With older patients, it’s often not worth the risk to undergo intensive treatments or invasive surgeries. Instead, doctors may consider palliative cancer treatments to improve the patient’s quality of life and manage discomfort.

Still, the average age of diagnosis for mesothelioma patients is 73. As a result, survival rates are heavily impacted by a late-age diagnosis.

Gender

Women diagnosed with mesothelioma historically experience better survival rates than men.

Researchers are exploring genetic and hormonal possibilities as examples of reasons why women have better survival rates. Understanding the reasons behind survival rates based on gender may help future treatments for men.

Women are less likely to have mesothelioma because of the occupational setting associated with asbestos exposure. The main cause of mesothelioma is occupational asbestos exposure.

However, women who lived near industrial settings that used asbestos may have been exposed. Even asbestos fibers on workers’ clothes when they came home from work led to exposure for women.

Race

Survival rates can also be measured by race. A large majority of mesothelioma patients are white, comprising 95% of cases. This is most likely a result of the occupational setting of asbestos exposure. Race can be a factor in survival rates for any type of cancer.

Histology

The histology, or cell type, of a mesothelioma tumor is the most common indicator of survivorship.

There are three main cell types:

  • Epithelial
  • Sarcomatoid
  • Biphasic

Epithelial cells are the most responsive to treatment, and patients with epithelioid mesothelioma have higher survival rates.

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma tumors are more likely to grow and spread aggressively, making it highly resistant to treatment.

Biphasic mesothelioma lands in the middle. Biphasic mesothelioma tumors include both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. The success of treatment depends mainly on the ratio of epithelioid cells to sarcomatoid cells.

Survival rates for mesothelioma patients are divided by cell type in the chart below:

Cell TypeMedian Survival Time
Epithelial19 months
Biphasic13 months
Sarcomatoid8 Months

Mesothelioma Stage

One of the most important factors in discussing survival rates is the stage. The stages of mesothelioma describe how far the cancer has spread from where it started.

Stages of Mesothelioma Update

The further the cancer has spread, the more advanced the mesothelioma has become and the harder it is to treat. Patients with early-stage mesothelioma have a higher survival rate because they qualify for more treatment options.

Mesothelioma symptoms do not manifest for 20-50 years after asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, this means that the cancer is often already advanced. This is the primary reason survival rates are low.

Considering Mesothelioma Survival Rate Statistics

Considering mesothelioma survival rates can seem grim. Difficulty coping with the nature of this disease is something all mesothelioma patients experience.

Here are a few things to consider to put survival rate statistics into perspective:

  • Most of the data does not include statistics from recent patients who have received cutting-edge treatment
  • A large portion of patients did not receive treatment from a mesothelioma specialist
  • Your prognosis is unique, and nobody will have the same experience with mesothelioma as you do
  • You and your doctor can improve your prognosis by working together

Talk to your doctor about how you can exceed these survival rates. If you need help coping during this process, your doctor can provide the resources you need.

Treatments and Research for Improved Mesothelioma Survival

Treatments and research are improving mesothelioma survival rates. There is a continued dedication to understanding this rare cancer that will improve our ability to treat mesothelioma effectively.

As patients receive treatments like surgery with HIPEC and other promising therapies in clinical trials, we will see advances in prognosis.

In the meantime, you can improve your chances of beating the statistics by finding the right mesothelioma specialist to oversee your treatment.

Contact us to learn more about how a specialist may be able to help you extend your lifespan. Our Patient Advocates are standing by to answer your questions.