Mesothelioma Prognosis

Quick Summary

A mesothelioma prognosis describes the expected outlook of a disease. Mesothelioma generally has a poor prognosis, but treatments can help patients live longer. 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.

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What Is the Prognosis for Mesothelioma?

A malignant mesothelioma prognosis is how doctors describe the expected health outcomes after someone is diagnosed. When making a prognosis, doctors take two factors into account: life expectancy and survival rate.

    • Mesothelioma Life ExpectancyThis is the average length of time a patient can expect to live after their diagnosis. The average life expectancy is 12-21 months for patients with pleural mesothelioma and over 50 months for those with peritoneal mesothelioma.
    • Mesothelioma Survival RatesSurvival rates measure the percentage of patients still alive after a certain span of time. The 1-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is 73.1% and 81% for peritoneal mesothelioma.

Improving Mesothelioma Prognosis

Many patients feel discouraged by their prognosis, as malignant mesothelioma is highly aggressive and there is no known cure. However, a mesothelioma prognosis is not set in stone and treatments can help patients live longer.

In fact, some patients who were originally given a poor prognosis lived for many months or even years longer than expected.

Here are some tips to improve your mesothelioma prognosis:

  • Work with a mesothelioma specialist

    Working with mesothelioma oncologists (cancer doctors) can offer you the best chance of improving your prognosis. These doctors know how to properly diagnose and treat this cancer. Several specialists work with the VA to treat veterans with mesothelioma.

  • Undergo surgery

    Most specialists agree that surgeries offer the best chance to improve lifespan. Mesothelioma surgeries allow doctors to remove cancer tumors from the body. However, not every patient will qualify for surgery as the side effects can be risky depending on age and how far the cancer has spread.

  • Get support

    A mesothelioma diagnosis brings stress and uncertainty. With help from friends, family, doctors, and even veterans advocates, you can get the support you need to battle this cancer.

Call (877) 450-8973 right now to see if you can work with mesothelioma specialists.

Factors That Determine Mesothelioma Prognosis

There are several factors that can affect a patient’s prognosis, such as where the cancer first forms or how healthy the patient is outside of having cancer.

Notable prognostic factors include:

  • Available treatment options
  • Cell type
  • Location of mesothelioma in the body
  • Patient history & health
Amy Fair
Amy FairRegistered Nurse
20+ years helping mesothelioma victims

“All of those components are going to drive life expectancy.”

Thankfully, there are treatments to help you no matter what your prognosis is. Learn about ways to improve your prognosis in our free veterans packet.

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Top Treatment
  • Best Doctors
  • Improving Prognosis

Get a Free Veterans Packet

Pleural Mesothelioma Prognosis

The type of mesothelioma a patient has greatly impacts their prognosis.

Patients with pleural mesothelioma (which develops in the lining of the lungs) have an average life expectancy of 12-21 months, depending on how far the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis.

12-21 Months
12-21 Months
Plueral mesothelioma average life expectancy

Pleural mesothelioma is often diagnosed in its later stages. However, patients can often live longer if they are diagnosed early and undergo treatments like surgery.

The 5-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is 10%, as noted by the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Prognosis

Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum), has the best prognosis of all types.

60+ Months
60+ Months
Peritoneal mesothelioma average life expectancy

Peritoneal mesothelioma patients who undergo aggressive treatment methods live for 53 months on average. Around 47% of patients will be alive 5 years after diagnosis, according to cited research from a 2019 study.

Prognosis worsens for peritoneal mesothelioma patients diagnosed when their cancer is more advanced. Typically, these patients are no longer candidates for surgery. Doctors may use palliative treatments to improve quality of life and ease uncomfortable symptoms.

Prognosis of Other Mesothelioma Types

Pericardial mesothelioma (which forms in the lining of the heart) has the worst prognosis of any type. It is almost never diagnosed in an early stage and spreads quickly. The median life expectancy for pericardial mesothelioma is roughly 6 months and the 5-year survival rate is 9%.

Testicular mesothelioma has a relatively good prognosis. Patients with testicular mesothelioma live for over 46 months on average if they’re promptly treated. Nearly 50% of patients are still alive 5 years after treatment.

Mesothelioma Prognosis by Stage

Malignant pleural mesothelioma has four stages. Patients in the early stages (1 and 2) have a better prognosis as the cancer is still largely contained to the lung lining (pleura).

Those in advanced mesothelioma stages (3 and 4) have a worse prognosis as the cancer may have spread through the body, limiting treatment options.

StageLife Expectancy
Stage 121 months
Stage 219 months
Stage 316 months
Stage 412 months

Source: Frontiers in Oncology, 2018

None of the other mesothelioma types have formal staging systems, but doctors will note how far the cancer has spread and factor that into a patient’s prognosis.

Stage 1 Mesothelioma Prognosis

Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma have the best prognosis as the cancer has not spread beyond the lining of the lungs. Stage 1 patients can undergo aggressive surgeries to remove as much of the cancer as possible.

Stage 1 mesothelioma has an average life expectancy of 21 months and a 5-year survival rate of 16%.

Stage 2 Mesothelioma Prognosis

Stage 2 mesothelioma patients have a slightly worse prognosis than those with stage 1. The cancer has started to spread past the chest wall into nearby organs, tissues, or lymph nodes. Thankfully, it still can be treated with aggressive surgery.

Patients with stage 2 mesothelioma have an average life expectancy of 19 months. The overall 5-year survival rate is 13%.

Stage 3 Mesothelioma Prognosis

In cases of stage 3 mesothelioma, the cancer has spread further through the chest and has reached areas like the spine or heart. Patients may or may not have access to ​​life-extending surgeries at this stage, but some treatments will still be available to possibly help them live longer.

Those diagnosed with stage 3 mesothelioma live for 16 months on average, with 11% of patients reaching the 5-year survival mark.

Stage 4 Mesothelioma Prognosis

Stage 4 mesothelioma is the final and most aggressive stage. Severe cancer spread (metastasis) has occurred and most patients can only receive treatment that will ease their symptoms but not help them live longer.

Patients with stage 4 mesothelioma typically live for 12 months or less following a diagnosis. Just 4% of patients will be alive 5 years after being diagnosed.

Mesothelioma Cell Type & Prognosis

Mesothelioma cell type also impacts a prognosis. Mesothelioma tumors can be made up of different types of cells, some of which respond better to treatment and have a better prognosis than others.

There are three main mesothelioma cell types:

  • Epithelioid mesothelioma: Patients with this cell type have the best prognosis as these cells clump together and are easier to remove. Epithelioid patients have a life expectancy of 18 months.
  • Sarcomatoid mesothelioma: Sarcomatoid patients often face a poor prognosis. Sarcomatoid cancer cells spread quickly and are harder to treat. The average life expectancy for these patients is 7 months.
  • Biphasic mesothelioma: Biphasic tumors contain both epithelial and sarcomatoid cells. Biphasic mesothelioma patients live for 10 months on average. However, if more epithelioid cells are present, the patient may live longer.

Our on-staff nurses can help you find treatments that may improve your prognosis. Chat with our team now to get started.

Prognosis for Mesothelioma by Treatment Type

Mesothelioma treatment and prognosis go hand in hand. While there is no cure for this cancer, mesothelioma treatments can improve a patient’s prognosis by months or even years.

The three most common treatments used to improve mesothelioma prognosis are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) also notes that multimodal therapy — which combines two or more treatments together — may be used to help early-stage patients live longer.

Mesothelioma Surgery Prognosis

Surgery is one of the most effective mesothelioma treatments. A mesothelioma surgery can mean the difference between a good prognosis and a poor one.

Commonly used surgeries include:

  • Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)This pleural mesothelioma surgery removes the lung closest to the cancer, the lung lining, and all visible cancer tumors. Patients have an average life expectancy of 35.6 months. The typical 5-year survival rate following this surgery is 25%.
    Diagram showing an extrapleural pneumonectomy. The lung closest to the cancer, all visible tumors, the heart lining, and part of the diaphragm are removed.Diagram showing an extrapleural pneumonectomy. The lung closest to the cancer, all visible tumors, the heart lining, and part of the diaphragm are removed.
  • Pleurectomy With Decortication (P/D)This surgery is also used to treat pleural mesothelioma. Doctors remove the lung lining and cancerous tumors but keep both lungs intact. The average life expectancy following this surgery is 33 months and the 5-year survival rate is 49%.
    Diagram showing a pleurectomy with decortication. Both lungs are spared but the lung lining closest to the cancer and all visible tumors are removed.Diagram showing a pleurectomy with decortication. Both lungs are spared but the lung lining closest to the cancer and all visible tumors are removed.
  • Cytoreductive SurgeryThis is the most commonly used surgery to treat peritoneal mesothelioma. Doctors surgically remove all visible cancer tumors and then bathe the surgery site with heated chemotherapy drugs. Patients who undergo this surgery live for 53 months on average. The 5-year survival rate is 47%.

Mesothelioma Chemotherapy Prognosis

Outside of surgery, chemotherapy is used by many mesothelioma oncologists. Mesothelioma chemotherapy can be used on its own or in combination with other treatments to improve prognosis.

When used by itself, chemotherapy can help patients live up to 1 year. Patients who receive chemotherapy with other treatments may live for many years.

For example, heated chemotherapy is combined with cytoreductive surgery to help peritoneal mesothelioma patients live for 4-and-a-half years on average.

Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy Prognosis

Radiation therapy may also be used to supplement surgery. When used after surgery, mesothelioma radiation increased median life expectancy by more than a year in some cases. Radiation is also useful as a palliative treatment to ease painful cancer symptoms.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy used to help improve quality of life for mesothelioma patients.

Clinical Trials & Mesothelioma Prognosis

Mesothelioma clinical trials may offer other ways to improve a prognosis outside of standard treatment options. Clinical trials test new treatments to see if they help patients live longer or with less pain.

Newer mesothelioma treatments such as immunotherapy were approved for mainstream use after clinical trials showed they could help patients improve life expectancy.

Learn about mesothelioma treatment options to improve your prognosis in our free veterans packet.

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Top Treatment
  • Best Doctors
  • Improving Prognosis

Get a Free Veterans Packet

Prognosis for Mesothelioma Without Treatment

The prognosis of mesothelioma patients who do not undergo cancer treatment is very poor.

The average life expectancy of pleural mesothelioma patients is 12-21 months with life-extending treatment, while patients that do not get these treatments live for 4-12 months. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients live for 6 months on average if they don’t get treated.

Demographic Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Prognosis

Demographic traits such as age, gender, and race may also impact a mesothelioma patient’s prognosis.

Age

Since mesothelioma takes 20-50 years to develop, it often affects seniors. That said, younger people diagnosed with this cancer tend to have a better prognosis. Younger patients are usually in better overall health and can often withstand aggressive treatments.

5-Year Survival Rate by Age
42.1%
<50
16%
50-64
7.7%
>65

Gender

Female patients have a better mesothelioma prognosis than male patients.

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program found that the average 5-year survival rate of women with mesothelioma was 18.2%, compared to 9.1% for male patients.

Race

Caucasian (white) people are more likely to develop mesothelioma, but they do not have the best prognosis.

5-Year Survival Rate by Race
14%
Black
11%
White
9%
Asian/Pacific Islander
11.3%
Hispanic

Mesothelioma Prognosis and Survivors

Some cancer patients outlive an initially poor prognosis to become mesothelioma survivors. Treatments are improving all the time as doctors and researchers continue to discover new ways of fighting this cancer.

Read stories of survivors below.

Mesothelioma Survivors Who Have Beaten the Odds

  • Bob5-Year Survivor

    Bob was diagnosed with mesothelioma and originally given just six to 12 months to live by his doctor. Though the diagnosis devastated Bob and his family, he was determined to fight. Bob’s courage carried him far, helping him to live for much longer than originally expected.
  • Julie15-Year Survivor

    Julie, a young mother, was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2006. Her doctors said she had a year or less to live. Julie never worked around asbestos, but her father did during his career as an electrician and died of asbestos lung cancer. After undergoing multiple rounds of treatments, Julie is still alive today.
  • Paul24-Year Survivor

    Paul was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1997 but has managed to greatly outlive his prognosis by making radical changes to his diet, lifestyle, and mindset. He is one of the longest surviving mesothelioma patients in the world.

Learn about ways to improve your mesothelioma prognosis.
Call (877) 450-8973.

Can Mesothelioma Go Into Remission?

Yes. In some cases, mesothelioma treatment is so successful that the cancer goes into remission. Mesothelioma remission means the cancer is no longer growing, according to the ACS.

Mesothelioma remission is not the same as a cure, but it can extend lifespan by months or even years. In a few cases, patients with mesothelioma successfully went into remission and did not have their cancer return.

What Is Mesothelioma Recurrence?

Mesothelioma recurrence is when the cancer comes back after going into remission. Despite the success of treatment, microscopic cancer cells may still exist in the body. These cancer cells can then multiply and cause tumors to regrow.

Fortunately, mesothelioma specialists can recommend treatments to patients in the event of a recurrence.

Take Action to Live Longer With Mesothelioma

A young male doctor (left) talks to an older male patient (right)

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, meaning patients get the best care possible to improve their prognosis.

If you have questions about improving your mesothelioma prognosis, give us a call today at (877) 450-8973 or get your free veterans packet to learn more.

Mesothelioma Prognosis: Common Questions

Is mesothelioma always fatal?

No. Some mesothelioma patients have been able to live for years or decades despite getting a poor prognosis at first. Depending on treatments and unique risk factors, some people have lived for 15 to 20 years after their diagnosis.

Is there a cure for mesothelioma?

There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, but proper treatment can improve prognosis. In some cases, it may even lead to long-term survival.

Doctors, researchers, and nonprofit organizations continue to study new mesothelioma treatments and search for a cure.

For example, doctors recently approved immunotherapy as a mainline treatment for mesothelioma 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.

Can a mesothelioma prognosis change?

Yes. Some patients who were initially given a very poor mesothelioma prognosis 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 to help you live longer. Get started today by calling (877) 450-8973.

 

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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