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Mesothelioma Prognosis

If you have just been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is natural to want to know your prognosis.  Many people ask themselves, “How long will I survive with this disease?”  Because this is such a rare disease, the answer to this question can be difficult.

Understanding and Improving Your Prognosis

A mesothelioma prognosis can be unpredictable and depends on the following things:

  • The cell type you have
  • The location of the mesothelioma
  • The stage of the mesothelioma
  • The treatments you receive
  • Your overall health at the time of diagnosis

Some cases that look poor actually turn out to have a better prognosis than once thought.  On the other hand, milder cases of mesothelioma can become aggressive and lead to a worsened prognosis.  The other complicating factor is that it takes a long time after exposure to asbestos for the symptoms of mesothelioma to show up.  The symptoms are often unnoticeable or mistaken for milder illnesses.  The disease is often advanced by the time the doctors make the diagnosis of mesothelioma.  Many people with an advanced stage diagnosis of mesothelioma are given 1 to 2 years to live  Even so, many people respond well to treatment and survive much longer than expected.

The prognosis for mesothelioma has improved over the years as new and better mesothelioma treatments are developed.  It is expected that, in the coming years, even better treatments will be developed that will improve the mesothelioma patient’s life span.

More Information on Factors that Determine your Prognosis

Your prognosis depends on these things:

  • Mesothelioma Cell Type.  Individuals with epithelioid mesothelioma tend to live longer than those who suffer from the sarcomatoid type of mesothelioma.  Fortunately, about half of all cases are of the epithelioid variety and only 15 percent are of the sarcomatoid variety.  About 35 percent of all cases represent a mixed amount of epithelioid cells and sarcomatoid cells.  The more epithelioid cells you have in your cancer tissue, the better your chance of a longer survival time.
  • Location.  Most patients (about 80 percent) have pleural mesothelioma while 10-15 percent will have peritoneal mesothelioma.  The rest have pericardial mesothelioma or testicular mesothelioma, which are more difficult to manage.  The location of the cancer affects how long it takes to be diagnosed, which affects prognosis.
  • Cancer stage.  If the mesothelioma is caught in stage 1 or stage 2, the prognosis is better.  Unfortunately, many people aren’t diagnosed with mesothelioma until they reach stage 3 or stage 4, when the cancer has spread to other body areas and is more difficult to treat.  The symptoms of mesothelioma mimic other diseases so that it can take months of symptoms before cancer is even thought of.
  • Metastatic Disease.  If the cancer has spread to other body areas, it has metastasized. Patients with mesothelioma that has metastasized often get chemotherapy, which doesn’t cure the disease but may prolong your survival by a few months.
  • Your general health.  If you are already in poor health or are elderly, you may have a harder time handling rigorous treatments than those in better overall health.  Unfortunately, many people with mesothelioma are over the age of 65, when other diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and general debility make it difficult to live with mesothelioma or receive treatment for the disease without complications.

Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Cancer statistics usually use measures of survival rate that are based on how many people with the cancer are still alive five years after diagnosis.  The survival rate for patients with mesothelioma after five years is about 10 percent.  This is because mesothelioma is an aggressive disease that has no cure and no treatments that extend the lifespan for very long.

Even so, a few patients do survive past five years and this number is rising as newer medical therapies become available.  Because mesothelioma is so aggressive, it is often measured in terms of its one-year survival rate.  Currently this rate stands at 40 percent.  The average survival time in all cases of mesothelioma is approximately 10-11 months following the diagnosis of the cancer.

Remission from Mesothelioma

Although mesothelioma is aggressive and can advance far from the original site of the cancer, there are some patients who go into remission.  Most continue with first line and second line therapy techniques designed to prolong their.  The important thing is to follow the instructions of the mesothelioma specialists who know how to prolong your life to the fullest extent.

Maximizing Mesothelioma Prognosis

It is expected that future mesothelioma prognoses will improve as more treatments become available  Some new advances in mesothelioma detection include blood tests, such as the Mesomark® Assay, which measures mesothelioma-related proteins in the blood.  While this test isn’t as sensitive as it should be for regular use in today’s diagnosis of mesothelioma, it is very specific for the disease.

This means that if the Mesomark® Assay is positive for mesothelioma proteins in the bloodstream, doctors can begin to look for mesothelioma and may be able to find the cancer at an earlier stage, improving your prognosis.  With this test, it is possible to identify mesothelioma before you have any symptoms, giving you the chance to have all the best mesothelioma treatments available to you.

Experimental treatments are being tested at major medical centers throughout the world, including gene therapy, photodynamic therapy, and immunotherapy.  If you join a clinical trial, you may be treated using one of these techniques and your prognosis may be better.  Newer chemotherapy drugs and newer procedures are being tested and used at various medical centers that may also improve your prognosis.

Sources & Author Edited: August 31, 2015

About the Writer

Senior Veteran Support Team

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center was created to provide information and assistance to veterans regarding treatment, clinical trials, and VA benefits for veterans suffering from asbestos illnesses. The MVC was founded by retired veterans and veterans advocates who have helped hundreds of veterans get approved for their VA benefits after developing mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer from their asbestos exposure in the military.

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