The average life expectancy for someone with malignant mesothelioma is 12-21 months after diagnosis. This incurable cancer is very aggressive, and without treatment, patient life expectancy is only 6 months on average. However, radical surgery combined with other treatments may extend a patient’s life by months or even years.
What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma Patients?
The life expectancy of mesothelioma cancer patients is roughly 1-2 years after diagnosis.
Patients diagnosed early have a general life expectancy of around 21 months, while patients with advanced cancer live closer to 12 months.
Mesothelioma life expectancy should not be confused with survival rates, which is the percentage of patients who live for a certain amount of time after diagnosis.
A survival rate helps doctors determine life expectancy and is given to a patient as part of their mesothelioma prognosis, or the overall outlook for their cancer.
What Factors Affect Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?
- Mesothelioma location: Generally speaking, peritoneal mesothelioma is easier to treat than pleural mesothelioma
- Stage at diagnosis: Patients diagnosed at a later stage have fewer curative treatment options than patients diagnosed early
- Cancer cell type: Patients with an epithelioid cell time tend to have longer life expectancies because these cells are slower-growing
- Patient age and overall health: Older patients and patients in poor health are more likely to be ineligible for curative surgery
Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma have a life expectancy of roughly 12 months, but this is largely dependent on whether they receive curative surgery (extrapleural pneumonectomy or pleurectomy/decortication).
Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma patients have the longest average life expectancy of all mesothelioma stages, usually surviving 21-51 months after diagnosis.
Stage 1 is the least advanced stage in the TNM staging system, making complete surgical removal of tumors most possible.
Stage 2 mesothelioma is still considered early-stage, with a typical life expectancy of 19-26 months. Stage 2 tumors are still localized and can often be removed with surgery.
Patients diagnosed with stage 3 pleural mesothelioma have late-stage cancer and usually survive 15-16 months after diagnosis. During this stage, the tumor is advanced and usually cannot be surgically removed.
Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of mesothelioma, in which tumors have spread from their original location in the chest to more distant parts of the body.
It is almost never possible to surgically remove stage 4 mesothelioma tumors, and patients diagnosed at this stage typically live 8-12 months.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Peritoneal mesothelioma patients have a relatively long life expectancy compared to other mesothelioma types.
This is especially true for patients who receive the life-extending treatment combination of cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy (HIPEC). Median survival time after this procedure is nearly 4.5 years.
"Without any form of treatment, most patients live under 6 months from the time of diagnosis. With chemotherapy given through the veins, patients can live up to 1 year. With surgery and chemotherapy that goes within the abdomen, instead of within the veins, we can increase patient survival by up to 90 months."
– Dr. Michael D. Kluger, Peritoneal Mesothelioma Specialist
Life Expectancy for Other Mesothelioma Types
The average lifespan of patients with pericardial mesothelioma is 6-10 months after diagnosis.
Because of the cancer’s close proximity to the delicate heart and its tendency to be misdiagnosed, pericardial mesothelioma is difficult to treat.
The median life expectancy for testicular mesothelioma is roughly 24 months, although some patients have lived many years beyond their prognosis.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Cell Type
The type of mesothelioma cells that make up a patient’s tumors are an important factor in determining how quickly a patient’s cancer advances and how treatable it is.
"Mesothelioma comes in epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. A doctor who does not specialize in this disease does not understand the nuances of the different histologies and what they may mean in terms of treating patients."
Epithelioid cells spread slowly, making them the most treatable cell type with the best prognosis. The average life expectancy of epithelioid mesothelioma cancer patients is 12-27 months.
Sarcomatoid cells spread quickly and are less responsive to treatment. The average life expectancy for patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma ranges from 7-18 months.
Biphasic cell mesothelioma tumors are made up of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. The ratio of these two cell types determines life expectancy, with more epithelioid cells resulting in a longer life expectancy.
The average life expectancy of a patient with biphasic mesothelioma ranges from 8-21 months.
Common Questions About Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Is mesothelioma always fatal?
The simple answer is yes, but an early mesothelioma diagnosis, aggressive treatment plan, and other factors can have a big impact on a patient’s life expectancy. Many mesothelioma survivors have lived for several years past their expected survival.
According to Lung Cancer International, mesothelioma mortality rates have decreased by 0.5% to 2% per year.
How long can you live with stage 4 mesothelioma?
The median stage 4 mesothelioma survival rate is 8-12 months for patients who receive treatment.
How quickly does mesothelioma spread?
Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive cancer that can spread quickly if left untreated. Many mesothelioma patients live only 6 months without treatment.
Can mesothelioma go into remission?
In only the rarest of mesothelioma cases does complete remission occur — usually if the patient undergoes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy.
With treatment, some patients can achieve partial remission which requires at least a 50% smaller tumor size. The earlier the patient begins treatment, the better the odds of achieving partial remission.
Seek Specialized Treatment from a Mesothelioma Doctor
Many of the most effective mesothelioma treatment options can only be performed by an oncologist (cancer doctor) with years of experience treating this cancer.
More than half of mesothelioma patients who receive cancer treatment survive their first year after diagnosis.
It is critical to seek help from a mesothelioma specialist whether you were diagnosed or are just starting to display symptoms. However, depending on your healthcare coverage, mesothelioma treatments can leave your family with severe financial burdens.
Filing a legal claim with Sokolove Law allows you to pursue financial compensation to help pay for the costs of care. To learn whether you may be eligible, get a free legal case review.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy FAQs
Is mesothelioma terminal?
Malignant mesothelioma is terminal. It is a rare form of cancer closely linked with asbestos exposure, which can be lethal at high levels. The disease takes a long time to develop – often around 30 years or more. By the time it is diagnosed, mesothelioma is usually in advanced stages.
Most patients have 12 months to live after diagnosis, while 5 to 10 percent of patients survive 5 years or more. This depends on factors such as age, overall health, and how far along the disease has developed.
How long can you live with mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma has a long latency period, meaning many years can transpire before symptoms of the disease develop. Thus, it can take up to 50 years for mesothelioma to be diagnosed.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the 5-year survival rate (or the percentage of people who live 5 years past diagnosis) for people with mesothelioma is between 5 and 10 percent. Life expectancy for mesothelioma patients can depend on factors such as age and stage of the disease but is 12 to 21 months on average.