Epithelioid Mesothelioma

Epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common of the three mesothelioma cell types. It's easier to treat than other types, so patients may live longer. The average life expectancy of epithelioid mesothelioma is nearly 3 years or more with treatment. We can help eligible U.S. veterans with epithelioid mesothelioma get military benefits, treatment, and compensation.

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What Is Epithelioid Mesothelioma?

An older man with a coughEpithelioid mesothelioma (also called epithelial mesothelioma) forms when epithelial cells, which line the inner and outer surfaces of your body, become malignant (cancerous) after asbestos exposure.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Quick Facts

  • About 70% of mesothelioma patients have this type, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
  • Approximately 700 U.S. veterans are diagnosed with epithelial cancer per year.
  • Epithelial tumors can develop in the lining of the chest, abdomen, heart, or testes.
  • Epithelioid cells are oval or cube-shaped. They divide rapidly but stick to one another.
  • This type is more easily treated than the other mesothelioma cell types (biphasic and sarcomatoid).

Malignant epithelioid mesothelioma patients may be able to live for almost 3 years if they get treatment, and some could even live longer.

Epithelioid Cells
Epithelioid Mesothelioma Life Expectancy with Treatment
~3 Years
[life expectancy in months]

If you or a U.S. veteran you love developed epithelioid cancer, the Mesothelioma Veterans Center stands ready to help you pursue benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), medical care, and compensation.

Get our Free Veterans Packet to see all the ways we can assist you after an epithelial mesothelioma diagnosis.

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What Is the Cause of Epithelioid Mesothelioma?

All types of mesothelioma are caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used in many occupations since it was a good construction material and insulator.

Breathing in or swallowing asbestos fibers can lead to epithelioid mesothelioma 10-50 years later.

You’re at a higher risk of any type of mesothelioma if you served in the U.S. military before the early 1980s, since all branches used asbestos-containing products in bases, vehicles, and ships.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Symptoms

Symptoms of epithelioid cancer typically start off mild but worsen over time.

A doctor holds up a stethoscope to the chest of an older male patient

Epithelial mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Chest pain and a cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lump on the chest wall beneath the skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pleural effusions (fluid buildup in the lung lining)
  • Shortness of breath
    Unexplained weight loss

See a mesothelioma doctor if you have any epithelial symptoms and were exposed to asbestos during your military service or at a job. By doing so, you can get diagnosed and treated promptly.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Diagnosis

To diagnose epithelioid cancer, your doctors will conduct a physical exam and take note of any symptoms you have.

They’ll then look for tumors in your body using imaging tests, such as:

  • CT (computed tomography) scans
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
  • PET (positron emission tomography) scans
  • X-rays
Epithelioid CellsIllustration of cell type under microscope

If doctors find signs of cancer on these scans, they’ll order a biopsy. A biopsy removes a fluid or tissue sample for review under a microscope. This test is the only way doctors can confirm if epithelial cancer cells are present.

Use our Free Mesothelioma Doctor Match to find specialists who can accurately diagnose you.

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Malignant Mesothelioma Epithelioid Types

There are different types of epithelioid mesothelioma depending on where the cancer forms in the body. Learn about these types below.

Epithelioid Pleural Mesothelioma

Epithelioid pleural mesothelioma is the most common type. Cancerous epithelial cells form in the lining of the lungs (pleura) and then spread to other parts of the body.

Epithelioid Peritoneal Mesothelioma

In cases of epithelioid peritoneal mesothelioma, cancer cells and tumors develop in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). This is the second most common mesothelioma type, but it’s easier to treat than pleural mesothelioma.

Rare Types of Epithelial Mesothelioma

Epithelioid mesothelioma can also develop in the lining of the heart (pericardium) or testicles (tunica vaginalis). Epithelial pericardial and testicular mesothelioma are incredibly rare.

What Are the Stages of Epithelioid Mesothelioma?

There are four stages of epithelioid pleural mesothelioma. The lower the stage, the easier the cancer is to treat.

The stages of pleural epithelioid mesothelioma are:

  • Stage 1: This is the least advanced stage. Stage 1 epithelial mesothelioma patients have the best prognosis since the cancer will be easier to treat with surgery.
  • Stage 2: The cancer has started to spread in stage 2 but doctors can often effectively remove tumors by using surgery.
  • Stage 3: In cases of epithelioid mesothelioma stage 3, the cancer may not be able to be surgically removed. However, other treatments may help patients live longer.
  • Stage 4: This is the most advanced stage, and the cancer has spread through the body. Stage 4 epithelial mesothelioma patients have fewer treatments available, but long-term survival could still be possible.

Life Expectancy by Stage


The other types of epithelioid mesothelioma (such as peritoneal) don’t have official stages. Instead, doctors will see how far the cancer has spread when making a diagnosis and recommend treatments.

What Is the Prognosis for Epithelioid Mesothelioma?

Epithelial patients often have a better prognosis (health outlook) and live longer than patients with sarcomatoid or biphasic mesothelioma, with many patients living for several years after a diagnosis.

Mesothelioma prognosis is measured using life expectancy and survival rate. Find prognosis information for epithelioid mesothelioma below.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma life expectancy is the average amount of time patients live after a diagnosis. The life expectancy for epithelioid patients is nearly 3 years or more with treatment.

Get our Free Veterans Packet to learn how we can help you access treatments to improve your life expectancy.

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Epithelial Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Survival rate is the percentage of patients still alive a certain number of years after diagnosis.

The 2-year epithelial mesothelioma survival rate is 45% and the 5-year survival rate is 14% with surgery, according to a 2022 review of National Cancer Database data.

By comparison, the 2-year survival rate for sarcomatoid mesothelioma is 15% with treatment.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Treatment

Surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation are common epithelioid mesothelioma treatments that help patients live longer. Learn about epithelial malignant mesothelioma treatments that could help you below.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Surgery

Doctors may use mesothelioma surgery to remove tumors if there is no metastasis (cancer spread through the body).

Epithelioid mesothelioma surgeries include: 

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): Used to treat pleural mesothelioma by removing the tumors, the lung closest to the cancer, and the pleura. Epithelial patients who got an EPP lived for 22 months on average in a 2022 Translational Lung Cancer Research report.
  • Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): Also used for pleural mesothelioma, but only the pleura and cancer are removed (both lungs stay intact). Epithelial patients who received a P/D and chemotherapy lived for over 38 months on average in the 2022 report above.
  • Cytoreduction with HIPEC: Used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma by removing cancer tumors and then applying heated chemotherapy. The 5-year survival rate was 42% and the average life expectancy was 38.4 months in a 2022 study.

Call (877) 450-8973 to learn if surgeries could be a part of your epithelioid mesothelioma treatment plan.


Chemotherapy medications like pemetrexed and cisplatin can destroy epithelioid cancer cells. Epithelial patients treated with chemotherapy lived for 15.8 months on average, in a 2022 Translational Lung Cancer Research report.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses beams of energy to kill epithelioid mesothelioma cells. In a 2021 Communications Biology study, epithelioid patients who received radiation and then surgery lived for 36 months on average.


Immunotherapy helps the immune system fight cancer. In a 2020 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report, immunotherapy helped epithelial patients live nearly three months longer on average compared to chemotherapy.

Multimodal Therapy

Combining different treatments in what’s known as multimodal therapy may help epithelioid patients live longer.

Women with epithelial mesothelioma who received an EPP, radiation, and chemotherapy lived for 70 months (nearly 6 years) on average, according to a 2020 Journal of Thoracic Oncology study.

Palliative Care

Palliative care focuses on easing a patient’s pain and symptoms. A 2021 report published by Chest noted how palliative care helped a U.S. Navy veteran with stage 3 pleural epithelioid mesothelioma.

The veteran was unable to get surgery but received radiation, chemotherapy, and other treatments as part of his palliative care plan. He lived for 1 year after his initial diagnosis.

Use our 14 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Checklist to find out which treatments will be best for you after an epithelioid mesothelioma diagnosis.

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Clinical Trials

Epithelial patients may qualify for clinical trials, which study emerging treatment options that could improve patient survival times

A study that started in September 2023 is testing different combinations of chemotherapy and immunotherapy to see how they can help patients with epithelioid pleural mesothelioma (as well as patients with other cell types).

Subtypes of Epithelioid Mesothelioma

There are several subtypes of epithelioid mesothelioma. Which subtype you have can affect your overall prognosis as some are easier to treat than others.

Epithelioid mesothelioma cell subtypes include:

  • Adenomatoid mesothelioma: This accounts for about 5% of all cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma. It needs to be distinguished from benign (noncancerous) adenomatoid tumors.
  • Cystic mesothelioma: This type is usually found in cases of peritoneal epithelioid mesothelioma that affect women. It is usually benign.
  • Deciduoid mesothelioma: Fewer than 5% of patients have deciduoid mesothelioma, according to a 2022 study. This subtype has a poor health outlook, but treatments may still help.
  • Solid mesothelioma: This subtype can form in nest or sheet-like patterns. A 2020 Histopathology study found that patients with solid mesothelioma had an average survival time of a little over 1 year.
  • Tubulopapillary mesothelioma: This common subtype has cube-shaped cells and grows slower than the other subtypes. Patients with this subtype lived for nearly 2 years on average in a 2020 Histopathology study.
  • Well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma: This is a very rare subtype. Most cases are considered benign, and the cells spread slowly. However, a 2019 Modern Pathology report found that some cases could be cancerous.

A mesothelioma specialist can determine if you have an epithelial mesothelioma subtype when reviewing a biopsy under a microscope.

Get Help for Epithelioid Mesothelioma

If you or someone you love is a U.S. veteran fighting mesothelioma, know you’re not alone and that we may be able to help you.

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center will walk with you through your diagnosis and assist you in any way we can.

Here are the next steps we suggest if you have epithelioid mesothelioma:

  1. Get our Free Veterans Packet: This free guide can help you understand your epithelioid mesothelioma diagnosis and what your options are.
  2. File or increase VA benefits: We can help you file for or increase your mesothelioma VA benefits, worth almost $4,000 as of 2024.
  3. Find treatments: Work with our caring and dedicated nurses to find the best doctors and treatments for your case.
  4. Get additional compensation: We can secure compensation to cover medical bills and protect your family. We recently secured $8.26 million for an epithelial patient and millions could be available to you too.

Call (877) 450-8973 to learn about all the ways we can help you or a loved one.

Epithelial Mesothelioma FAQs

Is epithelioid mesothelioma curable?

There is no official cure for epithelioid mesothelioma yet, but patients might live for many years depending on the treatments they receive.

Surgery, chemotherapy, and other treatments can all help improve life expectancy.

What is the life expectancy of someone with epithelioid mesothelioma?

The average epithelioid mesothelioma life expectancy is nearly 3 years with treatment.

If doctors diagnose the cancer before it has spread, they’re often able to use aggressive treatments like surgery and chemotherapy to help patients live longer.

Has anyone recovered from epithelioid mesothelioma?

Yes, some patients have recovered from epithelioid mesothelioma with medical treatment from top specialists.

Get a Free Veterans Packet to learn more about treatments that could possibly help you recover or live longer from epithelioid malignant mesothelioma.

Can immunohistochemistry help diagnose epithelial mesothelioma?

Yes. Pathologists (doctors who study cell and tissue samples) may use immunohistochemical staining to confirm an epithelial diagnosis.

Staining allows doctors to look for the protein calretinin, which is present in 95% of epithelioid mesothelioma cases.

Stains can prevent patients from being misdiagnosed, as epithelial mesothelioma cells may look like other cancers (such as adenocarcinoma of the lungs) under a microscope.

Veterans Support Team
Todd Gersten, MD PhotoReviewed by:Todd Gersten, MD

Double Board-Certified Oncologist and Hematologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Todd Gersten, MD, is a double board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist specializing in general adult oncology and hematologic disease. He is a physician partner with the Florida Cancer Specialists and practices in Wellington, Florida.

Dr. Todd Gersten is an independently paid medical reviewer.

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.

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