Epithelioid Mesothelioma Survival Rates: Fast Facts for Veterans

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An older veteran

Patients with epithelioid mesothelioma may have higher survival rates than those with other cell types (sarcomatoid and biphasic). This is because treatments often work better for this cell type, and that the cells spread at relatively slow rates. Veterans and their families can get the facts about epithelioid mesothelioma survival rates below.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Survival Rates Overview

Survival rates measure how many patients with a disease are still alive after a certain period of time. Though all types of mesothelioma are very deadly, epithelioid mesothelioma has the best survival rates, according to the charity Cancer Research UK.

65% of epithelioid mesothelioma patients who received medical treatments were still alive after two years, according to a study from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. 27% of patients were alive five years later.

Anyone at risk of mesothelioma can use survival rates to get an estimate of how long they will live — especially U.S. veterans.

Veterans run a higher risk of mesothelioma because the U.S. military relied on asbestos from the 1930s to the early 1980s. Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma.

Veterans — or anyone affected by mesothelioma — should learn more about survival rates and what factors affect patient outcomes.

Fact #1: Epithelioid Mesothelioma Survival Rates are High

Epithelioid mesothelioma (also known as epithelial mesothelioma) has better survival rates because it grows relatively slowly and is easier to treat.

In a study of mesothelioma patient outcomes published in the Journal of Surgical Research, researchers found that survival rates varied based on mesothelioma cell type.

The median survival time in this study (after surgery) was 14 months in the epithelioid group, 10 months in the biphasic group, and 4 months in the sarcomatoid group.

Fact #2: Epithelial Mesothelioma Survival Rates Improve with Treatment

Patients that do not receive mesothelioma treatments will not live as long. Without any treatment, most medical researchers expect a mesothelioma patient to die within a year, potentially as soon as 6-8 months after diagnosis.

Epithelioid mesothelioma can be treated through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. These mesothelioma treatments can reduce pain and symptoms while improving quality of life.

Here is what you can expect from each:

Chemotherapy: Cancer-killing drugs circulate throughout the body or are applied to tumors
Radiation: Painless energy rays are used to scramble the DNA of cancer cells and prevent them from dividing
Surgery: Doctors remove mesothelioma tumors and infected parts of organs

Did you know

According to American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), chemotherapy often works better for epithelioid mesothelioma.

Veterans can receive mesothelioma treatments through the VA or non-military medical providers.

Fact #3: Epithelioid Mesothelioma Survival Rates are Estimates

Survival rates for all types of mesothelioma are constantly in flux as more treatments are developed and studies on patient survival continue.

ASCO noted the following:

“It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with mesothelioma are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this cancer in the United States.

Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years.“

Some patients may also survive longer than expected with treatments. For example, one veteran lived for over a year and a half after his diagnosis — but his doctors had originally given him just a few months to live.

Fact #4: Other Factors Impact Survival Rate

Outside of cell type and treatment, there are several other factors that impact mesothelioma survival rates.

These factors include:

  • Early diagnosis: Catching the cancer before it has spread throughout the body makes it easier to treat since there is less of it. This can help patients extend their lifespans.
  • Patient’s overall health: Those with other pre-existing conditions may not qualify for certain treatments. For example, an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) requires a lot of strength to recover from since a patient’s lung will be removed.
  • Where the cancer develops: Mesothelioma can develop in several locations within the body (including the linings of the chest, abdomen, heart, and testicles). Some of these locations respond better to treatment (i.e. the abdomen) than others.

Doctors who treat mesothelioma can let patients know more about the specific factors that impact survival rates and quality of life.

Learn More About Epithelioid Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Those who developed epithelioid mesothelioma can learn more about survival rates from their doctor. Further, those possibly at risk of mesothelioma should reach out to their doctor if this deadly cancer is suspected.

Visiting a medical provider and getting a diagnosis early on can add valuable months to a mesothelioma patient’s life expectancy. This can allow time for surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments that can extend a patient’s survival time.

If the cancer is caught too late, treatment options may be limited and long-term survival may not be possible.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

  1. Mesothelioma. (2015, December 8). Retrieved from https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/mesothelioma/survival
  2. Shavelle, R., Vavra-Musser, K., Lee, J., & Brooks, J. (2017). Life Expectancy in Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5292397
  3. Mesothelioma - Introduction. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/mesothelioma/view-all