The life expectancy for someone with malignant mesothelioma is usually 4-18 months after diagnosis, according to Penn Medicine. Life expectancy varies according to multiple factors, and treatments may extend a patient’s life by months or even years.
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What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma Patients?
“Life expectancy,” as a medical term, refers to how long a person can be expected to live. This is an estimated figure based on the average age that members of a specific group, like patients with mesothelioma, will live until.
For mesothelioma cancer patients, the life expectancy is roughly 4-18 months after diagnosis, depending on if the patient pursues treatment. Patients diagnosed early have a general life expectancy of around 18 months, while patients with more advanced stages of cancer who may not be eligible for treatment live closer to 4 months.
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Mesothelioma life expectancies vary depending on a number of different factors, particularly what type of mesothelioma you have.
Mesothelioma Survival Rates
Mesothelioma life expectancy differs from the survival rate, which is the percentage of patients who live for a certain amount of time after diagnosis.
According to Penn Medicine, the five-year survival rate for mesothelioma is 10%, meaning 10% of patients with mesothelioma live for five years after their initial diagnosis.
A survival rate helps mesothelioma doctors determine life expectancy and is given to a patient as part of their mesothelioma prognosis, or the overall outlook for their cancer.
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What Factors Affect Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?
A variety of different factors are taken into account when determining a patient’s life expectancy with mesothelioma, including:
- The cancer’s location in the body
- The cancer’s stage at earliest detection
- The cancer’s cell type
- The patient’s age and health at diagnosis
- Whether or not the patient seeks treatment
Where mesothelioma occurs in the body also affects a patient’s life expectancy.
There are four types of mesothelioma based on location, including:
- Pleural mesothelioma in the lining of the lungs
- Peritoneal mesothelioma in the abdomen or chest
- Pericardial mesothelioma in the lining surrounding the heart
- Testicular mesothelioma in the testes
Generally speaking, peritoneal mesothelioma is easier to treat than pleural mesothelioma and has a higher life expectancy as a result.
Stage at Diagnosis
The earlier diagnosis and treatment occurs, the better the prognosis for mesothelioma patients. Patients diagnosed at a later stage have fewer curative treatment options than patients diagnosed earlier on.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma is hard to diagnose, according to the American Cancer Society.
In fact, one study found that 22.6% of mesothelioma victims are misdiagnosed with less aggressive asbestos-related diseases before receiving a correct diagnosis, leaving patients unknowingly living with mesothelioma.
Cancer Cell Type
Mesothelioma tumors may be composed of the following cell types:
- Epithelioid (or epithelial) cells
- Sarcomatoid cells
- Biphasic cells (a combination of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells)
Patients with an epithelioid cell type tend to have longer life expectancies because these cells grow at a slower rate than biphasic and sarcomatoid cell types.
Overall Health and Well-Being
Generally speaking, younger and healthier patients tend to live longer than older patients who may already be battling other health conditions.
Older patients and patients in poor health are also more likely to be ineligible for curative surgery, which can make a huge impact on extending your life expectancy.
The risk of surgery and other cancer treatment options can increase with the presence of certain pre-existing health conditions that are related to physical fitness and nutrition, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High white blood cell count
Similarly, nonsmokers usually have a higher life expectancy than mesothelioma patients who smoke.
Whether you were just diagnosed or are just starting to display symptoms, seeking help from a mesothelioma specialist is one of the most critical steps you can take to extending your life expectancy and improving your quality of life.
- More than half of mesothelioma patients who receive cancer treatments survive their first year after diagnosis, according to an article in The Ochsner Journal.
- Mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment, however, is only 4-12 months on average.
Many of the most effective mesothelioma treatment options can only be performed by an oncologist (cancer doctor) with years of experience treating this cancer.
Some of these treatment options include:
- Clinical trials
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Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
A 2018 report in Frontiers in Oncology found that patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma generally have a life expectancy of 12-21 months after diagnosis, with 18 months being the average. 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 months or more after diagnosis.
Stage 1 is the least advanced stage, when complete surgical removal of tumors is most possible.
Stage 2 mesothelioma is still considered early-stage, with a typical life expectancy of 19 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 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 12 months.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Peritoneal mesothelioma patients have a relatively long life expectancy compared to other mesothelioma types. In a 2013 study, the European Journal of Cancer found that peritoneal mesothelioma patients have an average life expectancy of 63.2 months.
This is especially true for patients who receive the life-extending treatment combination of cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy (HIPEC).
According to peritoneal mesothelioma specialist Dr. Michael D. Kluger:
- Most patients live under 6 months from their time of diagnosis without any form of treatment.
- With intravenous chemotherapy, patients can live up to a year.
- With cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy, patients can increase their survival by up to 90 months.
Life Expectancy for Other Mesothelioma Types
The life span of patients with pericardial mesothelioma is 6 months after diagnosis on average, according to a 2019 review in the journal Clinical Lung Cancer.
Because of the cancer’s close proximity to the delicate heart and its tendency to be misdiagnosed, pericardial mesothelioma is difficult to treat.
The average life expectancy for testicular mesothelioma ranges from 26-36 months after diagnosis, according to a 2010 article in Modern Pathology, although some patients have lived many years beyond their prognosis.
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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."
– Mary Hesdorffer, NP,
Executive Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
Epithelioid cells spread slowly, making them the most treatable cell type with the best prognosis. The average life expectancy of epithelioid mesothelioma cancer patients who undergo treatment is over 23 months, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in a 2017 report.
Sarcomatoid cells spread quickly and are less responsive to treatment. The average life expectancy for patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma ranges from 3.5-8 months as a 2016 report in the Tumori Journal found.
Biphasic mesothelioma tumors are made up of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. The ratio of these two cell types determines the patient’s life expectancy, with more epithelioid cells resulting in a longer life expectancy.
The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank’s 2019 study found that patients with biphasic mesothelioma have an average life expectancy of 10 months.
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Mesothelioma Life Expectancy FAQs
What is the life expectancy of someone with mesothelioma?
Depending on a multitude of factors, like the cell type and location of mesothelioma as well as if the patient pursues treatment, the life expectancy of a person with mesothelioma is between 4 and 18 months on average, according to Penn Medicine.
What is the mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment?
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that spreads quickly and is difficult to manage even with treatment. Without treatment, however, many mesothelioma patients live for only about 4-12 months on average after their diagnosis, according to an Anticancer Research study, though a variety of factors can affect this figure.
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.
What is the survival rate for mesothelioma?
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) and National Cancer Institute (NCI), the five-year survival rate (or the percentage of people who live five years past diagnosis) for people with mesothelioma is 10%, which may seem low but is much higher than it was even 10 years ago.
As medical specialists work to better understand this disease, both the mesothelioma cancer survival rate and treatment options will improve over time.
Is mesothelioma 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 rate.
According to Lung Cancer International, mesothelioma mortality rates have decreased by 0.5% to 2% per year.
Is stage 2 mesothelioma curable?
According to Penn Medicine, no stage of mesothelioma is considered to be curable. However, stage 2 is still an early stage and may offer mesothelioma patients more options to extend their life expectancy.
For instance, at this stage, cancerous tumors are still localized and can often be removed during surgery.
How long can you live with stage 4 mesothelioma?
The median stage 4 pleural mesothelioma life expectancy is 12 months for patients who receive treatment, according to a report in Frontiers in Oncology.
How quickly does mesothelioma spread?
Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive cancer that can spread quickly if left untreated, though this depends on which cell type the tumor is composed of.
Epithelioid cells grow slower than sarcomatoid cells, making tumors of that cell type spread more slowly. Therefore, epithelioid mesothelioma cases have a better life expectancy than the other two types, according to Penn Medicine.
Can mesothelioma go into remission?
Remission refers to the signs and symptoms of your asbestos-related cancer being reduced partially or completely.
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, according to the American Cancer Society. The earlier the patient begins treatment, the better the odds of achieving partial remission.
Can you survive mesothelioma?
Only 10% of mesothelioma patients survive five years after their initial diagnosis, according to Penn Medicine. However, many factors influence this estimate, including your overall health at the time of diagnosis, how early the cancer is detected, and more.
Can mesothelioma be cured?
Unfortunately, at this time, no stage of mesothelioma is considered to be curable, according to Penn Medicine. However, there are a variety of potentially life-extending treatment options available depending on the stage of development. In very rare instances, mesothelioma can go into partial or complete remission.
Is mesothelioma terminal?
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of terminal 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 10 percent of patients survive five years or more, according to Penn Medicine. This depends on factors such as age, overall good health, and how far along the disease has developed.
Is mesothelioma treatable?
While mesothelioma is not curable, according to Penn Medicine, there are treatment options available that can help to extend your life expectancy for months, if not years — particularly if your diagnosis occurs in one of the cancer’s earlier stages.
Some of the top treatment options for mesothelioma available at this time include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and more.