Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Quick Summary

Patients with pleural mesothelioma (the most common type of this cancer) generally live 12-21 months after diagnosis, as noted in a 2018 report published by Frontiers in Oncology. Cancer treatment plans can help patients live longer. Veterans may improve their life expectancy by working with mesothelioma doctors at specialized cancer centers and VA hospitals.

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What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma life expectancy is the projected length of time a patient will survive following their cancer diagnosis. A patient’s life expectancy is part of their mesothelioma prognosis. This is their overall expected health outlook.

The average life expectancy for patients with early-stage pleural mesothelioma (stages 1 and 2) is around 19-21 months if they undergo treatment. Patients with late-stage pleural mesothelioma (stages 3 and 4) have an average survival time of 12-16 months.

Stage 1-2 Life Expectancy
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19-21 months
[life expectancy in months]
Stage 3-4 Life Expectancy
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12-16 months
[life expectancy in months]

Peritoneal mesothelioma has an average life expectancy of about 63.2 months, according to a 2013 study from the European Journal of Cancer.

The average mesothelioma life span may seem grim, however, they are only estimates. Many patients with mesothelioma have outlived their life expectancies by years or decades.

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Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Life expectancy can vary based on when a patient was diagnosed, where the cancer first formed, and other factors. A patient’s unique demographics (such as age and gender) also impact lifespan.

Speak with a trusted advocate today on ways to improve life expectancy. Call (877) 450-8973.

Get more information on factors that affect mesothelioma life expectancy below.

Age

Older mesothelioma patients tend to have shorter lifespans since treatments are harder on their bodies. These patients may not even qualify for aggressive treatment options like surgery.

Gender

The American Cancer Society (ACS) found that men develop mesothelioma at a rate 4 times greater than women. However, women tend to have a better life expectancy. This difference in life expectancy is slight but statistically significant. Scientists aren’t quite sure why women fare better, though.

Overall Health

Mesothelioma patients who are in good health tend to live longer than those who are not.

Patients without coexisting health problems are better candidates for surgery. They also respond better to mesothelioma treatments because they typically can recover faster.

Location of Tumors

People tend to develop mesothelioma tumors in the lining of the lungs (pleura) or abdomen (peritoneum). The cancer can also form in the lining of the heart or testes in rare cases. It’s easier to treat mesothelioma in some locations than others, so where the cancer forms impacts life expectancy.

Learn about life expectancies for:

Stages

Pleural mesothelioma is broken up into four stages. Stage one is the least advanced, and stage four is the most advanced. Patients with early-stage mesothelioma typically have better life expectancies since there are more treatment options available.

Learn About Cancer Stages & Lifespans

Cell Type

Mesothelioma tumors can be made up of either epithelioid or sarcomatoid cells. Some cases are considered biphasic, in which the cancer is made up of both types of cells. Epithelioid cells respond better to treatment, so patients with this cell type may have a better life expectancy.

Learn About Cell Type & Lifespans

Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of this cancer. The average life expectancy for patients with pleural mesothelioma is 18 months, as noted by a 2018 Frontiers in Oncology report.

Two main factors affect the life expectancy of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

  1. Diagnosis: Pleural mesothelioma patients who are diagnosed early on have a better prognosis since the cancer hasn’t spread.
  2. Treatments: Aggressive treatments can help patients live longer. However, they may prove too dangerous for older or late-stage patients.

Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Stage

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

Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Stage

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

Source: Frontiers in Oncology, 2018

Patients diagnosed at stages 1 or 2 have the longest life expectancies. This is because their cancer is still concentrated on one side of the body. As a result, many of these patients are able 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. Sadly, this gives them poorer life expectancies than those with early-stage mesothelioma.

Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy After Surgery

Surgery and other treatments are key to improving the life expectancy of pleural mesothelioma patients.

One of the most common surgical options for pleural mesothelioma is an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). This surgery removes all visible cancer tumors along with the pleura and the lung closest to the cancer.

Patients who receive an EPP alongside other treatments like radiation and chemotherapy have a median life expectancy of 35.6 months, according to the European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery.

Another type of surgery for pleural mesothelioma is called pleurectomy with decortication (P/D). This surgery removes the pleura and cancerous tumors, but the patient’s lungs are kept intact.

  • Patients who undergo a P/D plus chemotherapy and/or radiation have a life expectancy ranging from 23.7-32 months, according to a 2017 cross-analysis of several studies.
  • Patients who have P/D surgery plus photodynamic therapy have a median life expectancy of 31.7 months. This data comes from a 2012 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Median survival was 41.2 months for patients with epithelioid mesothelioma.

Our free veterans packet offers more information on how treatments can improve life expectancy.

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Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for peritoneal mesothelioma patients is 5 years or more with treatment.

In fact, 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.” The patients had a cure rate of 43.6%.

Early-stage peritoneal mesothelioma patients have the best prognosis and life expectancy. Patients whose cancer has spread beyond the abdomen in its advanced stages have a worse outlook.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy After Surgery

Cytoreduction with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is the most notable treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma. This treatment combines surgery and chemotherapy.

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

Life Expectancy for Other Mesothelioma Types

Pericardial mesothelioma forms around the heart lining and tends to spread quickly. The average life expectancy for this type is 6 months upon diagnosis.

Testicular mesothelioma generally has a better prognosis, though it is still dangerous. Patients with testicular mesothelioma have a life expectancy of 26-36 months, according to a report published by Modern Pathology.

Life Expectancy by Mesothelioma Cell Type

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Epithelioid Cells
Life Expectancy with Epithelioid Cells
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18-24 Months
[life expectancy in months]

Epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common cell type. Patients with epithelioid mesothelioma have an average life expectancy of over 18 months if they just undergo surgery according to a 2017 report from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Further, ASCO notes that the life expectancy increases to over 23 months if they undergo a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Epithelioid cells grow slowly and respond well to treatment. This gives patients with epithelial mesothelioma a better prognosis.

Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Sarcomatioid Cells
Life Expectancy with Sarcomatioid Cells
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3.5-8 months
[life expectancy in months]

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is much more aggressive than epithelioid and has the worst prognosis. The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients with sarcomatoid cells is 3.5-8 months, according to a 2016 report from Tumori Journal.

Biphasic Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Biphasic Cells
Life Expectancy with Biphasic Cells
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10 Months
[life expectancy in months]

Biphasic mesothelioma occurs when a tumor has both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cancer cells. Patients with biphasic mesothelioma have a life expectancy of 10 months, as noted in a 2019 study from the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank.

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

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 reach a longer life expectancy by:

  • Consuming adequate vitamins and nutrients
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting treatment from a mesothelioma specialist
  • Looking after their mental health
  • Not smoking

Working with a mesothelioma doctor can also help patients live longer. Skilled cancer specialists can help connect patients to the best mesothelioma treatment options available in their case.

How Treatment Affects Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Treatments like surgery are the best way to extend survival in mesothelioma cases.

Mesothelioma surgery removes visible cancer tumors from the body. It can extend mesothelioma life expectancy by months or even years — especially when combined with other types of treatment.

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 4-12 months on average.

Without life-extending treatments, overall survival is poor for all types of mesothelioma. For example, pleural mesothelioma patients typically live just 12 months if they receive palliative care. Palliative measures help reduce pain but do not improve survival.

Peritoneal mesothelioma patients who do not receive life-extending treatments can expect to live 6 months or less, according to oncologist (cancer doctor) Dr. Michael D. Kluger.

Get Specialized Treatment from a Mesothelioma Doctor

Mesothelioma specialists can properly diagnose patients and recommend treatment options. Both of these play a big part in improving life expectancy. Specialists can be found at mesothelioma cancer centers across the nation.

Notable specialists include:

These oncologists have decades of experience in treating mesothelioma. They’ve also dedicated time to researching new and more effective treatments for this type of cancer. They can help patients access both standard treatments and emerging therapies through clinical trials.

Learn more about receiving specialized treatment from the nation’s top mesothelioma doctors. Call our team of Patient Advocates at (877) 450-8973.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy: Common Questions

Is mesothelioma always fatal?

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

Walter Twidwell, a Navy veteran from Washington, was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2016. Walter lived for over two and a half years after his diagnosis.

How quickly does mesothelioma spread?

Without treatment, mesothelioma metastasis (spread) occurs quickly. How fast mesothelioma cells spread depends on where the cancer first forms, its cell type, and unique patient factors.

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

Thankfully, doctors can help slow down the spread of mesothelioma cells by removing existing tumors and destroying unseen cancer cells.

Can mesothelioma go into remission?

It is possible for mesothelioma to go into remission. Remission means doctors are unable to find signs of the cancer within the patient. Patients that go into remission may live for years after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Is life expectancy the same thing as survival rate?

Both mesothelioma life expectancy and survival rate are elements of a patient’s prognosis, but they are not the same thing.

Mesothelioma life expectancy is the expected survival time of a cancer patient. Survival rate is the percentage of patients still living after a certain amount of time.

Life expectancy is usually measured in months, while mesothelioma survival rates are given in percentages.

How can I live longer with mesothelioma?

Seeking medical treatments as soon as you receive a proper diagnosis is arguably one of the best ways to live longer. Treatments can help slow the spread of the cancer and may also improve your survival time.

Outside of getting treated, maintaining a healthy diet and exercising may also play a role in helping you survive longer with this cancer.

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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