A mesothelioma prognosis describes the expected outcome of a patient’s cancer. Mesothelioma generally has a poor prognosis. Mesothelioma patients live for 15 months on average and just 10% live for 5 years or longer. Thankfully, veterans with mesothelioma may be able to access treatment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or private doctors to improve their prognosis.
What Is the Prognosis for Mesothelioma?
A malignant mesothelioma prognosis is how long a patient will live based on their diagnosis. It also provides the average percentage of patients still alive after a set period of time.
The average prognosis for mesothelioma is poor, with patients living only just a few years (or months) after diagnosis. However, some mesothelioma patients can live for much longer — sometimes decades — with medical treatment.
A mesothelioma prognosis takes two main factors into account: life expectancy and survival rate.
- Mesothelioma Life Expectancy This is the projected length of time doctors think the patient will live. The average life expectancy for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is 15 months. However, patients can defy their projected life expectancy and live much longer in some cases.
- Mesothelioma Survival Rate Survival rates measure the percentage of patients still alive after a certain time (usually years). The 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma is 10%, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
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Pleural Mesothelioma Prognosis
Pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs, is often diagnosed in its later stages. A late mesothelioma diagnosis makes surgery a less likely option, which means the patient will usually have a poor prognosis.
Pleural Mesothelioma Prognosis by Stage
Malignant pleural mesothelioma has four stages. Cancer patients in early mesothelioma stages (1 and 2) have a better prognosis since the tumors haven’t had a chance to spread past the pleura (lung lining).
Those in advanced stages (3 and 4) have a worse prognosis due to cancer metastasis (spread). If the cancer is found throughout the body, it’s harder to treat, and patients often don’t live as long.
|Stage 1||21 months|
|Stage 2||19 months|
|Stage 3||16 months|
|Stage 4||12 months|
Source: Frontiers in Oncology, 2018
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Prognosis
Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in the peritoneum (abdominal lining), has the best prognosis since it’s easiest to treat.
This type of cancer has a median survival time of over 50 months. Nearly half of patients live for at least 5 years after diagnosis.
Those with peritoneal mesothelioma have a better prognosis if diagnosed before their cancer spreads. In these cases, surgery and chemotherapy can often help patients live longer. A patient may have a poor peritoneal mesothelioma prognosis if diagnosed after the cancer has spread.
Prognosis of Other Mesothelioma Types
Pericardial mesothelioma has the worst prognosis of any type of mesothelioma. It is rarely diagnosed in its early stages and spreads quickly to other parts of the body. The median life expectancy for pericardial mesothelioma is between 2 and 6 months.
On the other hand, testicular mesothelioma has a relatively good prognosis. Patients with testicular mesothelioma can expect to live for 50 months on average if they are diagnosed early and undergo surgery. Half of all testicular mesothelioma patients are still alive 5 years after diagnosis.
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Demographic Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Prognosis
A patient’s individual traits play a major role in determining their mesothelioma prognosis.
Notable mesothelioma prognostic factors include:
- Cell type
- Mesothelioma location
- The patient’s overall health
- Treatment options
Learn how these factors impact mesothelioma prognosis below.
Mesothelioma takes 10-50 years to develop after asbestos exposure, so it often affects older adults. That said, younger people diagnosed with this cancer tend to have a better prognosis. Younger patients are often in better overall health and can withstand aggressive treatments.
5-Year Survival Rate by Age
|Age Group||Survival Rate|
|50 and Younger||42.1%|
|65 and Older||7.7%|
Source: National Cancer Institute SEER program
Female patients have a better prognosis than male patients.
The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program found that the 5-year survival rate of women diagnosed with mesothelioma was 18.2%. The average 5-year survival rate for men was just 9.1%.
Caucasian (white) individuals are more likely to develop mesothelioma, but they do not have the best prognosis.
5-Year Survival Rate by Race
Source: National Cancer Institute SEER program
Mesothelioma Prognosis by Cell Type
The types of cells that make up a patient’s cancer tumors can also impact mesothelioma prognosis. Some mesothelioma cell types respond better to treatment, meaning these patients might live longer.
The three mesothelioma cell types are:
- Epithelioid mesothelioma: Epithelioid mesothelioma has the best prognosis of all mesothelioma cell types. These cells clump together to form tumors that are easily removed via surgery. These patients have a life expectancy of 18-23 months, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
- Sarcomatoid mesothelioma: Patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma often face a poor prognosis since these cells spread quickly, making tumors harder to treat. The life expectancy for patients with sarcomatoid cells is just 3.5-8 months.
- Biphasic mesothelioma: These tumors contain both epithelial and sarcomatoid cells. Biphasic mesothelioma patients have a median life expectancy of 10 months, as noted by researchers who studied the National Mesothelioma Tumor Bank. However, if there are more epithelioid cells than sarcomatoid cells, the patient may have a better prognosis.
Mesothelioma Prognosis by Treatment Type
While there is no cure for this cancer, mesothelioma treatment can improve a patient’s prognosis by months or even years. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are the most common treatments used to improve mesothelioma prognosis.
Surgeries to Improve Mesothelioma Prognosis
Successful mesothelioma surgery can mean the difference between a relatively good prognosis and a poor one.
Surgeries that can improve mesothelioma prognosis include:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This surgery is used to treat pleural mesothelioma. Doctors remove the lung closest to the cancer, the pleura, and all visible cancer tumors. Patients that get an EPP live for 35.6 months on average and have a 5-year survival rate of 24%.
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): Also used to treat pleural mesothelioma, this procedure involves removing the pleura and tumors but keeping both lungs intact. The average life expectancy following this surgery is about 34 months, and the 5-year survival rate is roughly 29%.
- Cytoreduction with HIPEC: This surgery, used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma, removes cancer tumors from the abdomen lining. Then, doctors bathe the abdomen in a warm chemotherapy solution. Following this procedure, patients have an average life expectancy of 53 months. The 5-year survival rate is 47%.
Other Treatments and Mesothelioma Prognosis
Outside of surgery, other treatments can also improve mesothelioma prognosis. The treatments listed below are often used alongside surgery in what’s called multimodal therapy to help patients live longer.
- Chemotherapy is used by almost all mesothelioma oncologists. When used alongside cytoreductive surgery in peritoneal mesothelioma or pleural mesothelioma surgeries, patients may be able to live for many years.
- Radiation therapy may also be used to boost the effects of surgery. Radiation has increased median life expectancy by more than a year in some cases when used after surgery. Radiation is also useful as a palliative treatment to improve the quality of life for mesothelioma patients.
- Clinical trials test new treatments to see if they improve mesothelioma prognosis. A 2021 cancer research study showed that combining immunotherapy and chemotherapy greatly helped peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Tumors shrank in 40% of cases, and the cancer didn’t spread in 65% of patients a year after treatment started.
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Mesothelioma Prognosis Without Treatment
The prognosis for mesothelioma patients who do not undergo cancer treatment is very poor.
For example, the average life expectancy of a pleural mesothelioma patient who receives treatment is 12-21 months. Without treatment, it ranges from 4-12 months.
Mesothelioma Prognosis and Survival
Some patients outlive an initially poor mesothelioma prognosis and become long-term survivors. Find hope from the stories of mesothelioma survivors below.
- Julie was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2006 when she was in her mid-30s. Her initial mesothelioma prognosis was only 6-12 months. However, Julie had a will to live and underwent aggressive treatments. She is still alive today and now serves as an advocate for other mesothelioma patients.
- In 2002, Tom was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. His initial life expectancy was 12 months. Tom underwent an EPP to remove a lung and, thanks to this treatment, was able to become a long-term survivor.
- stage 4 mesothelioma and given only a few months to live. However, he underwent an emerging chemotherapy treatment that allowed him to survive much longer. In 2010, 63-year-old David was diagnosed with
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Mesothelioma Prognosis, Remission, and Recurrence
Remission and recurrence are two other important factors that can affect mesothelioma prognosis. Learn about both below.
Can Mesothelioma Go Into Remission?
Possibly, yes. Entering remission is very important to improving mesothelioma prognosis. Mesothelioma remission means the cancer is no longer growing, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Mesothelioma remission is not the same as a cure, but it can extend a patient’s life span by months or even years. In some cases, patients with mesothelioma successfully went into remission and did not have their cancer return before they passed away.
Not every patient will be able to achieve mesothelioma remission, but patients have a better chance if they undergo more aggressive treatments.
What Is Mesothelioma Recurrence?
Mesothelioma recurrence is when the cancer comes back after going into remission. Despite treatments, microscopic cancer cells may still exist in the body. These cancer cells can then multiply and cause tumors to regrow.
Thankfully, mesothelioma specialists can offer treatments to patients in the event of a recurrence to potentially help them live longer.
“Our patients are then monitored closely with regular CT scans and follow-up visits every 3-6 months. At the first sign of tumor recurrence, we are able to utilize one of a number of treatments, such as radiation, chemotherapy, and cryoablation, to attack it.”
– Dr. Robert Cameron, Mesothelioma Specialist
Improving Mesothelioma Prognosis
Many patients feel discouraged by their mesothelioma prognosis, since this type of cancer is very aggressive and there is no known cure. However, a mesothelioma prognosis is not set in stone.
Here are some tips to improve your mesothelioma prognosis:
- Work with a mesothelioma specialist
Oncologists (cancer doctors) across the country specialize in treating different forms of this cancer. Working with these experts offers you the best chance of improving your mesothelioma prognosis. Several specialists work with the VA to provide treatments to veterans with mesothelioma.
- Undergo surgery
Mesothelioma surgeries allow doctors to remove all visible traces of cancer, preventing it from spreading. While not every patient will qualify (as the side effects can be risky), many mesothelioma specialists agree that surgeries offer the best chance of improving life expectancy.
A mesothelioma prognosis can bring a lot of stress and uncertainty to you and your loved ones. With help from friends, extended family, Veterans Service Officers (VSOs), and even mesothelioma attorneys, you can get the emotional and financial support needed to battle this cancer.
Call (877) 450-8973 to see if you can work with mesothelioma specialists.
Take Action to Live Longer With Mesothelioma
Early detection and treatment are the keys to improving a mesothelioma prognosis. Thankfully, veterans have access to some of the world’s top mesothelioma doctors through the VA Health Care System.
Mesothelioma specialists at VA hospitals and other cancer centers often have decades of experience. Qualifying patients can access some of the most effective treatments and therapies available to improve their prognosis.
If you have questions about your mesothelioma prognosis, give us a call today or get your free veterans packet.
Mesothelioma Prognosis: Common Questions
Is mesothelioma always fatal?
No. While this cancer is often fatal, many mesothelioma patients have been able to live for years or decades despite initially poor prognoses.
Depending on treatments and individual factors, some people have lived for 15-20 years longer than their initial mesothelioma prognosis.
Is there a cure for mesothelioma?
There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, but proper treatment can improve mesothelioma prognosis.
For example, doctors approved immunotherapy as a mainline treatment for mesothelioma in 2020 after encouraging results in clinical trials. A notable 2020 trial found that immunotherapy kept more patients alive for longer periods of time when compared to chemotherapy.
Doctors, researchers, and nonprofit organizations continue to search for a cure and study new treatments that can improve mesothelioma prognosis.
Can a mesothelioma prognosis change?
Yes. Some patients who were given a very poor mesothelioma prognosis at first surprised their medical teams by living months or years longer than expected.
Your mesothelioma prognosis may change depending on how the cancer responds to treatments. When you work with leading mesothelioma specialists, they can recommend treatments designed to help you live longer.
Does asbestos exposure impact a mesothelioma prognosis?
Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Those exposed to asbestos 10-50 years ago often develop this cancer.
Asbestos exposure in and of itself doesn’t affect a mesothelioma prognosis. However, if you were exposed to asbestos and are suffering from symptoms of mesothelioma, make sure to talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
If your doctor knows that you were exposed to asbestos, they may be able to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms and diagnose you with mesothelioma before the cancer spreads.
An early diagnosis can greatly improve your mesothelioma prognosis, as the cancer will be easier to treat.