The survival rates of mesothelioma tend to be unfavorable. Numbers are based on the length of time former patients lived once formally diagnosed, and are an average. It’s important to know this since your prognosis is not definitive—you may live longer than what was expected. What your doctor tells you is just a rough estimate based on statistics and possibly past experience.
Studies show that about 40% of mesothelioma patients survive for at least a year after they’ve been diagnosed, 20% for at least two years, and 10% for at least five years. Unfortunately, most people with mesothelioma do not know they have it until their symptoms become noticeable, and this can be decades after they were first exposed to asbestos (the primary cause of mesothelioma). It’s not unusual for someone to have stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma and not know it, because their symptoms may be mild or mistaken for another disease.
Average life expectancy
By stage 3 or 4, the cancer has most likely spread from the point of origin to other parts of your body, making it very difficult to remove. Cancer cells may also be in your blood. Surgery can help, but most of the time the point of any treatment is to reduce discomfort rather than be curative. Average life expectancy for stage 3 and 4 is 12 to 16 months.
Stage 1: 21 months
Stage 2: 19 months
Stage 3: 16 months
Stage 4: 12 months1
Factors determining survival rate
There are several factors that contribute to survival rate.
Age: Patients who are older tend to have a lower survival rate than those who are younger.
Gender: Statistically for pleural mesothelioma, women tend to have a slightly better survival rate than men over a five year period.
Type of mesothelioma: There are four types of mesothelioma, based on where the point of origin in the body is. It could be in the lungs (pleural), abdomen (peritoneal), heart (pericardial) or testicles (testicular). The first two are the most common and most researched. Statistics show that survival rates for peritoneal mesothelioma are significantly better than the pleural type.
Blood: Normal hemoglobin levels as well as normal white blood cell and platelet counts indicate a better condition.
Tumor cells: A biopsy will be conducted to examine tumor cells. Three types of cells are examined: epithelial, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. Epithelial cells are the least aggressive and therefore related with the highest median survival rate (19 months), while sarcomatoid are the most aggressive and have the lowest median survival rate (8 months).
Overall health: Additional medical conditions and diseases decrease survival rates, particularly if they are chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
Today’s available treatments
It is believed that survival rates may have improved over the years because of the availability of better medical treatments.