A mesothelioma prognosis helps a patient understand the overall outlook for their disease, including their life expectancy. Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive, incurable cancer with a poor prognosis and an average patient life expectancy of 12-21 months after diagnosis. Early detection and aggressive treatment plans may greatly improve a patient’s survival.
What Is a Mesothelioma Prognosis?
A malignant mesothelioma prognosis describes the likely course a patient’s cancer will take.
The prognosis for mesothelioma is usually poor, with most patients living less than 2 years after their diagnosis. However, every case is unique, and many individuals outlive their prognosis.
Patients diagnosed early, before their cancer has begun to spread, have a better prognosis comparatively. Mesothelioma patients diagnosed when their cancer is advanced usually do not survive more than 1-2 years because they are ineligible for curative (life-extending) surgery.
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What Makes Up a Mesothelioma Prognosis?
Mesothelioma life expectancy is the estimated amount of time a patient will live after their diagnosis. It varies greatly depending on the stage and type of their cancer, their personal health, and other factors.
Mesothelioma patient life expectancy can range from roughly 6 months to over 5 years or more depending on an individual’s prognosis and eligibility for treatment.
Survival rate is the percentage of mesothelioma patients who have survived for a certain length of time. Mesothelioma specialists often look at mesothelioma survival rates to help predict an individual patient’s life expectancy.
The 1-year median survival rate for mesothelioma is 73%, meaning 73% of people with mesothelioma live at least 1 year after diagnosis.
What is the survival rate for mesothelioma?
It used to be the average survival rate for mesothelioma was 6-18 months. Recently in the last few years, with the new drug Alimta chemotherapy regimen, we are seeing survival rates well beyond 36 months. The average survival rate also varies depending on the cell type of mesothelioma and the other underlying health conditions of the patient. Care is focused more towards treatment and not cure. Treatment varies depending on what type of mesothelioma they have. Other comorbidities they have such as heart disease or diabetes. The quality of life suffers during these phases depending on their reaction to chemotherapy and the side effects they may experience during chemotherapy.
Prognosis vs Diagnosis
A mesothelioma diagnosis confirms an individual’s disease or cancer, while a prognosis tells the patient what to expect from their disease. Doctors must first diagnose a patient with mesothelioma before they can give them an accurate prognosis.
Pleural Mesothelioma Prognosis
Pleural mesothelioma originates in the lining of the lungs (pleura). The prognosis for this type of mesothelioma is one of the least favorable because it is usually diagnosed when the cancer is already advanced and curative treatment is not possible.
That said, the prognosis for malignant pleural mesothelioma is largely dependent on the stage at diagnosis. Patients with early-stage mesothelioma typically have a better prognosis.
Patients with stage 1 pleural mesothelioma have a life expectancy of 21.2 months. Patients diagnosed during this first stage are the most likely to be eligible for curative treatments and, as a result, have the best prognosis.
Stage 2 mesothelioma patients have a life expectancy of 18.9 months. At this stage, prognosis is still generally favorable because the cancer can usually be surgically removed.
Mesothelioma patients in stage 3 have a median life expectancy of 14.3 months. Stage 3 mesothelioma is usually too advanced for mesothelioma oncologists (cancer doctors) to safely and effectively remove through surgery, resulting in a poor prognosis.
On average, patients with stage 4 mesothelioma live 10.1 months after diagnosis. Stage 4 mesothelioma is the most advanced stage, when the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body and oncologists can no longer surgically remove it.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Prognosis
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). Compared to pleural mesothelioma, this form of cancer progresses fairly slowly and responds better to treatment.
For these reasons, peritoneal mesothelioma generally has a better prognosis than its pleural counterpart. The average life expectancy for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma is 28-35 months.
Peritoneal mesothelioma patients who undergo cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC survive a median of around 4.5 years after diagnosis, giving them a better prognosis than those who do not opt for treatment.
Prognosis of Rare Mesothelioma Types
Pericardial Mesothelioma Prognosis
Because pericardial mesothelioma develops close to the delicate heart, prognosis for the disease is poor. The patient life expectancy for this form of mesothelioma is 4-12 months.
Testicular Mesothelioma Prognosis
Testicular mesothelioma prognosis is generally good, with many patients living over 5 years after diagnosis.
Factors That Affect Mesothelioma Prognosis
- Age: Younger patients tend to have a better prognosis.
- Mesothelioma Cell Type: Epithelioid mesothelioma cells spread more slowly and respond better to treatment than sarcomatoid cells.
- Gender: Male patients have lower survival rates than female patients.
- Overall Health: Patients with other diseases or who suffer from overall poor health have lower life expectancies.
- Mesothelioma Type: Some types of mesothelioma, such as peritoneal mesothelioma, tend to progress more slowly than types like pleural mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Prognosis and Lifestyle
A patient’s mesothelioma type, stage, and available treatment options are usually the biggest prognostic factors for this cancer. However, lifestyle factors can also impact the progression of the disease.
Healthy lifestyle habits like maintaining a proper diet and staying physically active may help mesothelioma patients recover after treatment, reduce stress and depression, and improve overall health. Patients should talk to their doctors for diet and exercise recommendations.
Improving Prognosis Through Treatment
The best way to improve a mesothelioma prognosis is by catching the cancer early and undergoing life-extending surgery performed by an experienced mesothelioma doctor.
However, there are other malignant mesothelioma treatment options for patients who are ineligible for these surgeries.
Although invasive, surgery is the best option for improving a mesothelioma patient’s prognosis, especially when combined with other treatments in a multimodal approach.
Life-extending surgeries for mesothelioma include:
- Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)
- Pleurectomy with Decortication (P/D)
- Cytoreduction with HIPEC
Successful surgery may improve patient life expectancy by several years. For example, Mike M. was just 29 when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011. After undergoing lung-removal surgery and receiving other cancer treatments, he is still alive today.
Chemotherapy helps eliminate cancerous cells and stop their growth. This form of treatment may improve patient prognosis either by itself or by increasing the effectiveness of surgery.
Mesothelioma patients who receive chemotherapy alone have an average life expectancy of 12-18 months.
Radiation therapy is not a curative treatment on its own due to the risk of severe side effects. However, it may improve mesothelioma prognosis and quality of life if combined with other therapies.
“Radiation can, in conjunction with chemotherapy, help the cells from dividing and multiplying. It can make shortness of breath better. It can make your pain control better by shrinking the size of the tumor.”
– Amy Fair, Registered Nurse
Mesothelioma Prognosis FAQ
Is mesothelioma remission possible?
It is possible for patients with mesothelioma to go into remission for several months or years after aggressive, early treatment. This means that doctors can no longer detect any cancer cells in the body. However, in nearly all mesothelioma cases, the cancer eventually recurs (returns).
What is mesothelioma recurrence?
Mesothelioma recurrence occurs when a patient’s cancer begins to spread and grow again after remission. Patients with mesothelioma recurrence generally have a poor prognosis and short life expectancy.
Is mesothelioma always fatal?
Although mesothelioma is considered an incurable and aggressive form of cancer, there are individuals who have beat all odds and are living long past their original prognosis.
For example, mesothelioma survivor Julie G. was given just 6-12 months to live after being diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2006. Thanks to multimodal treatment, Julie is still living today.
Access Treatment From a Mesothelioma Specialist
A cancer diagnosis is not easy news to receive. No matter your prognosis, receiving curative treatment gives you the best chance of potentially living past your prognosis.
That said, mesothelioma treatment can be expensive and daunting, leading to unneeded stress for patients and their families. Sokolove Law may be able to help victims pursue financial compensation that can help pay medical bills and other expenses.
Get a free legal case review today to learn whether you may be eligible for compensation.