What Is the Survival Rate for Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma survival rates have historically been low, at about one year on average. However, there are many factors to consider, such as the type, stage and location of the cancer. The good news is that, with early diagnosis methods and cutting-edge treatments, survival rates are improving.
While this is a difficult topic, it’s important to understand the contributing factors and available treatments to improve a mesothelioma prognosis.
Understanding Survival Rates for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma typically takes decades to develop after asbestos exposure, and its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. By the time a patient receives a mesothelioma diagnosis, it may have reached an advanced stage. That’s part of the reason why, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the median survival time after mesothelioma diagnosis is one year.
Typical survival times range from four to 18 months after diagnosis. In one study, 45% of patients survived one year from diagnosis, 25% survived two years from diagnosis and 9% survived five years from diagnosis.
It’s important to remember that many variables factor into mesothelioma survival rates—perhaps most notably the type of mesothelioma diagnosed. Also, new cases of mesothelioma have declined in recent years while treatments and survival rates have increased.
Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates
Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the membranes lining the thoracic cavity, or chest cavity, which holds your heart and lungs. It is the most common type of mesothelioma, making up about 80–85% of cases, and the median survival time is 12 months. For all pleural mesothelioma cases, 40% of patients survived one year from diagnosis, 18% survived two years from diagnosis and 5% survived five years from diagnosis.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates
Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the membranes lining the abdominal cavity, causing swelling, obstructions, nausea and vomiting. It makes up 10–15% of cases and has a slightly better survival rate than pleural mesothelioma. For all peritoneal mesothelioma cases, 50% of patients survived one year from diagnosis, 35% survived two years from diagnosis and 18% survived five years from diagnosis.
Factors Affecting Survival Rates
Survival rates for mesothelioma are difficult to predict. Many factors can affect a mesothelioma prognosis, including the cancer’s location, stage and type, plus an individual’s age, health status and even gender. Additionally, mesothelioma treatments—and survival rates—are constantly improving.
Pleural and peritoneal are the most common types of mesothelioma. However, there are other, more rare forms. Pericardial mesothelioma affects the membranes lining the heart, while testicular mesothelioma affects the testicular lining. Here are the estimated survival rates by location:
- Pericardial mesothelioma is less studied but is believed to have the least favorable survival rate.
- Pleural mesothelioma has a five-year survival rate of 5%
- Peritoneal mesothelioma has a five-year survival rate of 18%.
- Testicular mesothelioma has a five-year survival rate of 49%.
Stage of Cancer
The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registry, which is used to study mesothelioma survival rates, has three main mesothelioma stages (note that this differs from how mesothelioma staging typically occurs in relation to diagnosis and treatment):
- Localized: Mesothelioma occurs only in the originating pleura or membranes. Localized cases have the best mesothelioma survival rates.
- Regional: Mesothelioma has spread to the lymph nodes or other nearby organs and structures.
- Distant: Mesothelioma has spread to parts of the body farther from the original site, such as the liver or distant pleura. Cases that have spread to distant sites usually have a poorer prognosis.
The importance of stage may also vary by type of mesothelioma. For example, in pleural cases, 6% of those with localized cases lived five years, compared with 3% of those with distant cases. But for peritoneal cases, 26% of those with localized cases lived five years, compared with 11% of those with distant cases, a larger statistical difference.
Mesothelioma Cell Types
Beyond stage, mesothelioma can also be broken down into histologic types, a category that refers to the cancer’s growth pattern and the cells that are affected.
- Epithelioid mesothelioma affects the epithelial cells, which are responsible for protecting organs and absorbing or secreting substances. It’s the most common type and is also easier to diagnose and treat, so it has the highest survival rate of the three types.
- Fibrous sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the second most common type. It can form fibrous nodes and lesions throughout the body and can spread quickly, making it less responsive to treatment.
- Biphasic mesothelioma affects both epithelial and sarcomatoid cells and is the rarest type. It generally has a lower survival rate than epithelioid mesothelioma, as it’s more difficult to treat, but a higher rate than fibrous sarcomatoid mesothelioma.
Demographics refer to characteristics like age, gender and race or ethnicity. They can also affect mesothelioma survival rates. For example:
- Men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with mesothelioma due to occupational exposure. However, women generally have a better survival rate. One study found that women with malignant pleural mesothelioma have a threefold better survival rate than men.
- The impact of race on mesothelioma survival is debated. Some studies have found that Caucasians have a slightly better survival rate, while others found no difference.
- In general, survival rates for mesothelioma decrease as age increases. That is, the older a patient is at diagnosis, the poorer their prognosis.
Survival rates for mesothelioma are also affected by overall health, history of smoking, and the presence of a certain protein mutation:
- The healthier a patient is, the better the prognosis. When the body is strong and healthy, it can better fight the disease.
- A history of smoking can also weaken the body’s ability to fight mesothelioma.
- High blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes can increase the risks of the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation used to treat mesothelioma.
- Patients with a mutation in the BAP1 protein may be more likely to develop mesothelioma but also have a better prognosis, with a sevenfold increase in survival compared with those diagnosed with mesothelioma who don’t have the mutation.
Improving Mesothelioma Survival Rates
The most effective way to improve the mesothelioma survival rate is through early diagnosis. New tests are being developed that can detect mesothelioma earlier, including the Mesomark® blood test, which detects elevated levels of a certain biomarker.
Anyone who has worked in an at-risk occupation, like construction workers, auto mechanics, military service members, plumbers and electricians, should also be proactive in watching for symptoms of mesothelioma. These include shortness of breath, chest or back pain and a persistent, dry cough.
New treatments are also bringing hope to mesothelioma patients, including:
- Immunotherapy, which stimulates the body’s own immune system to detect and destroy cancer using its natural defenses.
- Gene therapy, which inserts genes into a cancerous cell or tissues that kill or slow the growth of cancer.
- Photodynamic therapy, which uses special drugs that are activated by light to kill cancer cells.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy, a risky but groundbreaking surgery that involves removing the lung, pericardium and diaphragm.
Proper nutrition, stress reduction strategies and other holistic therapies could also help reduce symptoms and provide a better quality of life for mesothelioma patients.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, access to these cutting-edge treatments can improve your prognosis. Filing a claim for mesothelioma compensation can help you recover some of those costs and ease your financial burden. However, it’s also essential to keep your stress to a minimum.
You want a mesothelioma legal team that understands what you and your family are going through and will fight for you in court—while you fight the disease. At Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen, we have decades of experience as caring, compassionate advocates. If you still have questions about mesothelioma survival rates or would like a free case evaluation, contact us today.
What factors affect mesothelioma survival rates?
Numerous factors affect survival rates for mesothelioma, including the location of the tumors, how far the disease has progressed, the type of cells affected (histology), and the patient’s age, gender and lifestyle. Peritoneal (abdominal) and testicular locations, early stage and an epithelioid histology have the best survival rates. Women also have better survival rates than men, and younger, healthy patients have a better prognosis.
Are there any available treatment options to improve mesothelioma survival rates?
The best way to improve mesothelioma prognosis is early diagnosis. There is a new blood test available that can detect the cancer earlier than could be done previously. Traditional treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, while newer, cutting-edge treatments include immunotherapy, gene therapy and photodynamic therapy.
How long can individuals with pleural mesothelioma live?
Patients with pleural mesothelioma typically live about one year from diagnosis, but nearly 20% live for two years. Treatments are improving every day, and access to excellent care can make a big difference in the survival rate for pleural and other types of mesothelioma.
What are the survival rates for different stages of mesothelioma?
As with all types of cancer, in general, the more advanced mesothelioma is, the lower the survival rate. However, survival rates for mesothelioma stages depend on the location of the cancer. With peritoneal (abdominal) mesothelioma in particular, early-stage diagnosis has a much better prognosis than later stages.
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