Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Quick Summary

Patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma generally live less than 2 years, but customized treatment plans may extend their survival. Seeing experienced mesothelioma doctors located at specialized cancer centers and VA hospitals are the best way for patients to improve their life expectancy.

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What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma life expectancy is the expected length of time a patient will survive following their cancer diagnosis.

The average life expectancy for patients with early-stage pleural mesothelioma (stages 1 and 2) is around 38 months. Patients with advanced pleural mesothelioma (stages 3 and 4) have an average life expectancy of 12 months.

Average Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma


Peritoneal mesothelioma has an average life expectancy of about 31 months.

A mesothelioma patient’s life expectancy is directly related to their overall prognosis, the expected progression of their disease.

Factors that influence this include:

  • Type of mesothelioma
  • Cell type
  • Mesothelioma stage
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Patient’s overall health

These important factors also influence a patient’s life expectancy. Although the average life expectancy for mesothelioma is 2 years, it is not definite. Some mesothelioma patients pass way sooner, while others live much longer.

How Treatment Affects Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Specialists and researchers widely regard surgery as the best way to extend survival in mesothelioma cases.

Mesothelioma surgery, which involves removing visible tumors, can extend mesothelioma life expectancy by months or even years — especially when combined with other treatments.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment

The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients who go without treatment is much shorter than those who chose to get treatment, about 2-12 months on average.

Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is usually diagnosed after it has started to spread. Due to its location near the lungs and heart, treatment options for pleural mesothelioma are aggressive and may prove too dangerous for older patients.

These two factors contribute to the cancer’s generally short life expectancy. However, pleural mesothelioma patients diagnosed early typically have a better prognosis than those whose cancer is discovered late.

Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Stage

Pleural mesothelioma has 4 stages, with patient life expectancy decreasing as the stages progress.

Patients diagnosed at stages 1 or 2 have the longest life expectancies because their cancer is still concentrated on one side of the body. This qualifies many of these patients to undergo invasive but curative treatments like surgery.

Once the cancer has reached stages 3 or 4, it has begun to spread to more distant areas of the body. Patients diagnosed at these later stages do not usually qualify for surgery, giving them worse life expectancies than those with early-stage mesothelioma.

Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy After Surgery

One of the most common surgical options for pleural mesothelioma is an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP).

  • Patients who receive an EPP plus radiation therapy have a median life expectancy of 25.5 months.
  • Patients who undergo an EPP with heated chemotherapy have a median life expectancy of 39 months.

Another type of surgery for pleural mesothelioma is called pleurectomy with decortication (P/D).

  • Patients who undergo P/D plus heated intraoperative chemotherapy have a median life expectancy of around 35 months. Patients with an epithelioid cell type have a median survival of 49 months, while patients with a biphasic or sarcomatoid cell type have a survival time of 21 months.
  • Patients who have P/D surgery plus photodynamic therapy have a median life expectancy of 31.7 months. For patients whose cancer has not yet spread to their lymph nodes, median survival is 57 months.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for peritoneal mesothelioma patients is 4-12 months without treatment and can be up to 5 years with treatment.

Early-stage peritoneal mesothelioma patients (patients who receive a mesothelioma diagnosis while their cancer is still localized) have the best prognosis and life expectancy. Patients whose cancer has spread beyond the abdomen (advanced stage) have a worse outlook.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy After Surgery

Cytoreduction with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is a peritoneal mesothelioma treatment option that combines surgery and chemotherapy.

The median life expectancy for patients who receive this procedure is 63.2 months or about 5.3 years.

A 2013 study from the European Journal of Cancer found that peritoneal mesothelioma patients who lived longer than 7 years after diagnosis “appeared to be cured” and had a cure rate of 43.6%.

Life Expectancy for Other Mesothelioma Types

Pericardial mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that tends to spread quickly. The average life expectancy for this mesothelioma type is 6-10 months upon diagnosis.

Testicular mesothelioma generally has a better prognosis, but it tends to be very aggressive. Patients with testicular mesothelioma have a life expectancy of 2-64 months.

Life Expectancy by Mesothelioma Cell Type

Mesothelioma tumors may be made up of different types of cells. This cell type influences a patient’s life span.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Epithelioid Cells
Life Expectancy with Epithelioid Cells
10-24 Months
[life expectancy in months]
Patients with epithelioid mesothelioma have an average life expectancy of 10-24 months.

Epithelioid cells grow slowly and respond best to treatment, giving patients with this mesothelioma cell type the most optimistic prognosis.

Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients with sarcomatoid cells is 2-13 months with an average of 5.5 months.

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is much more aggressive than epithelioid and has the worst prognosis.

Biphasic Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Comprised of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cancer cells, mesothelioma with the biphasic cell type has a life expectancy of 12 months.

Biphasic mesothelioma patients with more epithelioid cells tend to have a better prognosis than those with more sarcomatoid cells.

Other Factors Affecting Life Expectancy

  • Age: Older mesothelioma patients tend to have a shorter life expectancy because they do not generally tolerate treatment as well as those who are younger. Older patients may not even qualify for aggressive treatment options like curative surgery. Patients aged 65 or younger have a median life expectancy of about 1 year, while those aged 65-74 live about 8 months after diagnosis.
  • Gender: Although mesothelioma disproportionately affects men, women tend to have a better life expectancy. This difference in life expectancy is slight but statistically significant, although scientists aren’t quite sure why women fare better.
  • Overall health: Mesothelioma patients who are in good health tend to live longer than those who are in poor health. Patients without coexisting health problems are better candidates for surgery. They also respond better to treatment because they can recover faster.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy FAQ

Is mesothelioma always fatal?

Mesothelioma is considered a fatal disease with low rates of long-term survival. However, some patients have defied the odds.

How quickly does mesothelioma spread?

How fast mesothelioma cells spread depends on the mesothelioma location, cell type, and individual patient characteristics.

Sarcomatoid cells tend to spread the fastest. Additionally, pleural mesothelioma is more likely than peritoneal mesothelioma to spread past its site of origin.

Treatment can also help slow down the spread of the cancerous mesothelioma cells. Without treatment, mesothelioma spreads relatively quickly throughout the body.

Can mesothelioma go into remission?

It is possible for mesothelioma to go into remission, in which doctors are unable to find signs of the cancer within the patient. Mesothelioma patients that go into remission can live for years after diagnosis.

Is life expectancy the same thing as survival rate?

Both life expectancy and survival rate are elements of a patient’s prognosis, but they are not the same thing. Life expectancy is the expected survival time of a cancer patient, while a survival rate is the percentage of patients still living after a specified amount of time.

Mesothelioma life expectancy is usually measured in months, while mesothelioma survival rates are percentages.

Improving Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Many factors that determine mesothelioma life expectancy are out of patients’ control. However, there are some ways in which a patient can improve their quality of life and their body’s ability to fight cancer.

Mesothelioma patients may improve their life expectancy by:

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Consuming adequate vitamins and nutrients
  • Exercising regularly
  • Looking after their mental health
  • Getting treatment from a mesothelioma specialist

Prompt treatment from an experienced mesothelioma doctor is one of the best ways patients with mesothelioma can improve their prognosis and life expectancy.

Get Specialized Treatment from a Mesothelioma Doctor

Connecting with a mesothelioma specialist helps ensure proper diagnosis and effective treatment options, which can improve a patient’s life expectancy.

Specialists can be found at mesothelioma cancer centers across the nation:

These oncologists have decades of combined experience facilitating cancer research to discover the most effective treatments for mesothelioma. They can help patients access emerging treatments through clinical trials, including the promising new option, immunotherapy.

To learn more about receiving specialized treatment from the nation’s top mesothelioma doctors, call our team of Patient Advocates at (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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