Survival Rates for Pleural Mesothelioma

Quick Summary

Discussing survival rates can be tough for patients with pleural mesothelioma. This type of cancer is associated with poor survival rates, although each patient has hope for beating the odds. New treatments are contributing to an improvement in pleural mesothelioma survival rates. Working with the right mesothelioma specialist to make knowledgeable decisions about your treatment can help you surpass the statistics.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates and Life Expectancy

Survival rates are sometimes confused with life expectancy, although there is a distinct difference. Life expectancy refers to the expected length of time that a patient will live after being diagnosed. You’ll often hear life expectancy discussed in terms of a median number—meaning that 50% of patients will live longer than this number, and 50% are expected to live less.

On the other hand, the survival rate is a percentage that indicates the number of people who will live for a given length of time after diagnosis. This is made clearer by using standard time indicators to measure and compare survival rates. Some common gauges include 1, 5, and 10 years. But some data is even more detailed, showing survival rates by 1-year increments.

Further Breakdown of Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Further Breakdown of Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates
Number of Years After DiagnosisSurvival Rate
1 Year38%
5 Years10%
10 Years4%

In the past, it was common for pleural mesothelioma to be discussed in terms of 1-year survival. Because of recent improvements in treatment options and patterns of patients living longer than expected, survival rate standards are steadily changing. With continued improvement, we can hope to see many more long-term survivors.

Factors Affecting Patient Survival

There are several factors that affect your chances of living 1, 5, 10 or more years after diagnosis.

Although your doctor can provide the most accurate evaluation of these factors, these are some of the determinants they will look at:

Age is looked at because younger mesothelioma patients will be eligible for more aggressive and more varied treatment options than older patients. Older patients are not as often good candidates for invasive surgical procedures, such as an extrapleural pneumonectomy, due to the potential for complications. Because surgery is often key to improving survival, rates are lower for those who cannot receive it—including older patients.

However, because mesothelioma is usually diagnosed in older individuals, survival rate statistics are impacted by the low survivorship of these elderly patients. As a matter of fact, the average age of diagnosis for mesothelioma patients is around 73 years old, and it is rare for individuals under 50 to be diagnosed with the disease at all.

Survival Rate Update

Survival rates can also vary based on gender. Studies have found that women have a mesothelioma survival rate that’s almost three times better than that of men.

The stage of the cancer is also an important factor of survivorship for pleural mesothelioma patients. As with all forms of mesothelioma and other cancers, survival rates are the highest among patients who were diagnosed at an early stage. Early stage means that cancer has not spread too far from the site where it originated, so treatment options are more abundant.

Pleural mesothelioma survival rates can be broken down by stage:

StageMedian Survival
119.3 months
211.6 months
34.7 months
42.7 months

Finally, cell type is another main classification by which survival rates can be categorized. The histology of a mesothelioma tumor is a highly accurate determinant of a patient’s survival.

Mesothelioma has 3 main cell types:

  • Epithelioid
  • Sarcomatoid
  • Biphasic

Of these three, epithelioid mesothelioma is the most treatable, as these cells are the least aggressive. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is harder to treat, and the cells can be very resistant to treatment. Biphasic mesothelioma consists of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cell types and is generally harder to treat than epithelioid mesothelioma, but not as difficult as sarcomatoid.

When looking at mesothelioma survival rates in finer detail, tumor histology is one of the most accurate methods of filtering this data. The following pleural mesothelioma survival rates are broken down by cell type. These statistics are the result of a study that looked at more than 3,000 pleural mesothelioma patients.

Cell Type PresentMedian Survival
Epithelial19 months
Biphasic13 months
Sarcomatoid8 months

Limitations of Mesothelioma Survival Rate Data

Mesothelioma patients should be aware of the limitations in looking at survival rate data. While the statistics provide a helpful tool for measuring survivorship over time and the efficacy of new treatments, there is no reason to look at these numbers as a guarantee of how long you’re likely to survive. There are exceptions to survival rates as well as various shortcomings to the data.

Some things to consider include:

  • Currency of Data: Survival rate data is not always up-to-date. As well, most data looks at historical patterns of mesothelioma survival and the results of treatments conducted in the past. The numbers may not reflect the current survival rates for patients who receive leading-edge treatments, but rather overall survivorship for a given time period.
  • Available Treatment: On a similar note, some data may show patients who didn’t receive the latest standards in treatment, or didn’t receive treatment at all. This is important to remember when you look at the survival rate for your age, gender, mesothelioma cell type, or other factors.
  • How Treatment Was Overseen: Survival rates are also affected by the inclusion of patients who had general oncologists oversee their treatment instead of mesothelioma specialists.  Working with a mesothelioma specialist provides many benefits to patients. These specialists are up-to-date on treatment advancements and are well-versed in the historical data specific to mesothelioma. They have a deeper understanding of how this type of cancer manifests, how it reacts to different therapies, and how it varies in different patients. Mesothelioma is a rare and complex cancer, so an expert has a significant advantage when it comes to ensuring the best treatment possible to improve survival.

Know that survival rates do not represent perfect science; there is always some level of inaccuracy involved. This should be taken as a sign that each patient has a unique experience has and their own chance at improving survival. While survival rates can be valuable, they are not the be all end all of any patient’s prognosis.

To improve your chances of surviving longer than the statistics indicate, there are several important steps you can take. First, take care of your own general health. Your doctor can provide advice on how to improve your diet, activity levels, rest, and mental well-being. Secondly, if a mesothelioma specialist is not already overseeing your treatment, get connected with one as soon as possible. Finally, ensure you speak with your specialist about the possibility of participating in clinical trials.

Regardless of your experience with pleural mesothelioma so far, you deserve the best care available to you.

Survivorship is on its way up, and clinical trials are an excellent way to be at the forefront of the latest innovations in treatment and care for pleural mesothelioma. With the right specialist and the support of your care team, you can improve your chances of beating the odds and substantially increase your quality of life.

Connect with us today to learn more about seeing a pleural mesothelioma specialist for your pleural mesothelioma treatment.