It can be hard to talk about life expectancy in mesothelioma patients because it is not a curable disease and many patients do not live long after being diagnosed with the disease. Life expectancy statistics vary with the cell type you have, the location of your tumor, and the type of mesothelioma treatments you are given after the diagnosis.
Understanding Life Expectancy
Currently, the median life expectancy for patients with mesothelioma is between 12 and 21 months. It all depends on the stage of mesothelioma found at the time of diagnosis.
This means that about 40 percent of patients will live at least one year following diagnosis of mesothelioma and 20 percent of patients will live past the two-year mark. Because mesothelioma is often found in the later stages of the disease, treatments are designed to prolong life and not to cure the disease.
Fewer than ten percent of mesothelioma patients live longer than 5 years. Each individual case is different—statistics that apply to others may not apply to you depending on how you are treated for the disease, where your tumor is located and when the disease was diagnosed.
- 40 percent of mesothelioma patients live past one year
- 20 percent of mesothelioma patients live past two years
- 10 percent of mesothelioma patients live past five years
If you have an advanced diagnosis, you may not be a candidate for curative therapy treatments and may only receive palliative care, which is designed to make you more comfortable but not to improve your life expectancy. You can receive holistic treatments or alternative medical treatments that will help relieve your symptoms to some degree so you can live your life more comfortably.
Joining a clinical trial may prolong your life, especially if the new treatment being tried is one that is found to improve life expectancy. Talk to your cancer specialist about enrolling in a clinical trial that may prolong your life and can further the current research on the disease of mesothelioma.
Things that Impact Life Expectancy
Your life expectancy depends on several factors, including:
- Age. The older you are, the shorter is your life expectancy, even if you didn’t have mesothelioma. Those with mesothelioma who are older tend not to tolerate mesothelioma treatments as well as younger patients so they may not be offered the most aggressive treatments. In one study it was found that those diagnosed at age 65 or younger lived about 359 days after diagnosis; those 65-74 years of age lived about 242 days; those aged 75 and older lived about 112 days.
- Stage. Stage I and stage 2 mesothelioma patients are those who have been diagnosed before the cancer has spread to distant areas and tend to live longer than those who are diagnosed at stage III and stage IV. Statistics have shown the following to be true of stage and life expectancy:
- Stage I: 21 months on average
- Stage II: 19 months on average
- Stage III: 16 months on average
- Stage IV: 12 months on average
- Mesothelioma Location. People with pleural mesothelioma tend to live longer than those with peritoneal mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma patients have an even shorter life expectancy. This is because it takes longer to diagnose peritoneal mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma than it does to diagnose pleural mesothelioma.
- Mesothelioma Cell Type. If you have epithelioid mesothelioma, you tend to respond to treatments better than if you have sarcomatoid mesothelioma. This increases the life expectancy of epithelioid mesothelioma patients above that of sarcomatoid mesothelioma patients. Those that have mixed type mesothelioma have a life expectancy somewhere between the two. The more epithelioid cells you have, the better your prognosis.
- Gender. Women with mesothelioma are far outnumbered by men who have the disease but those that do suffer from this type of cancer live longer than men. This difference in life expectancy is slight but statistically significant.
- Overall health. Those who are in good health live longer than those who are in poor health. For example, those who are anemic or who have elevated platelet or WBC counts have a shorter life expectancy than those who have normal blood counts. There are also mesothelioma biomarkers that you can be tested for to determine how much mesothelioma exists in your body. Higher amounts of these biomarkers mean you have a greater tumor load and a lesser life expectancy.
The best way to improve your prognosis is to find a mesothelioma specialist. These doctors have an in-depth understanding of mesothelioma and can guide you toward the best treatment options.