Mesothelioma Survival Rates and Life Span

Quick Summary

Not all patients want to know survival rate statistics. These statistics show the percentage of mesothelioma patients who live a certain number of years. It’s important to note that these are only numbers, and they may not apply to your situation.

Mesothelioma Stage and Life Span

After a diagnosis of mesothelioma, many people wonder what kind of life span they have left. Statistics tell us that the average life span of patients with mesothelioma is between 12 and 21 months. These numbers are based on the stage of your disease. Stage 1 patients having the longest life span (21 months) and stage 4 having the shortest (12 months).

Your life span depends on several different factors. The most common factors include:

  • Disease stage
  • Cell type
  • Age
  • Overall health

Your disease stage only tells part of the story. Although the typical life span of stage 3 patients is 16 months, those with an epithelioid cell type often live months longer.

Before You Read the Survival Statistics

Survival rates for mesothelioma is based on old data. That’s because these rates are measuring the length of the lives of hundreds of people. Current data is often older than 5 years. This could be because there are less people being diagnosed with mesothelioma than before.

Or it could be that more people are living longer than before. Either way, it’s important to note that these statistics don’t account for recent research or treatment.

Mesothelioma Survival Statistics

Statistics tell us that 40 percent of patients survive the first year after their diagnosis. This is known as the 1-year survival rate for mesothelioma. Scientists often measure mesothelioma life span by 1, 2, and 5-year survival rates.

The 2-year survival rate for mesothelioma is 20 percent. So a fifth of all patients diagnosed live longer than 2 years.

Fewer than ten percent of mesothelioma patients live longer than 5 years.

Remember that each individual case of mesothelioma is different. Statistics that apply to others may not apply to you. Your actual life expectancy depends on your treatments, your tumor location and your cell type. These statistics include best and worst case scenarios. They include patients who have received surgery and those who were ineligible.

Summary of mesothelioma survival rates:

  • 40 percent of mesothelioma patients live longer than one year.
  • 20 percent of mesothelioma patients live longer than two years.
  • 10 percent of mesothelioma patients live live longer than five years.
Did you know?

Overall survival statistics take all mesothelioma cell types into account. But cell type makes a big difference in survival rates. In one 1996 study, the overall 2-year survival rate of patients who received surgery was 45 percent. The overall 5-year survival rate was 22 percent. However, “two and 5-year survival rates were 65 percent and 27 percent, respectively, for patients with [epithelioid] cell type,” the authors of the study said. The 2-year survival rate for sarcomatoid cell type was 20 percent.

Treatment for mesothelioma is getting better and better. Patients are living longer. Clinical trials are also helping extend people’s lives.

People who get their care at specialty mesothelioma cancer centers tend to do better than those treated elsewhere. This is why you should find a mesothelioma specialist who has treated many others with the disease. If you are on VA benefits, there are two top mesothelioma surgeons available to you. Find out more about top mesothelioma doctors in the country and VA.

Did you know?

One of the most effective therapies for mesothelioma is called trimodality treatment. This therapy uses three types of treatment. Doctors treat patients with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery at different stages of their diagnosis. In a 2017 study, patients who had trimodality treatment had a 1- and 3-year overall survival of 82 and 48 percent. You can learn more about different treatments in our free Mesothelioma Veterans Guide.

What Affects Survival Rates?

Here are some of the common factors that affect mesothelioma survival rates.

  • Cancer stage and location. People in earlier mesothelioma stages live longer than people in later stages. And those with peritoneal mesothelioma have better survival rates than pleural mesothelioma. There are different treatments based on the location and stage of your tumors. Different treatments have a different impact on your life span.
  • Cell type. Patients with epithelioid cell types live longer than those with other cell types. Patients with sarcomatoid or mixed cell types have the shortest life spans.
  • Overall health. If you are healthy at the time of diagnosis, your lifespan tends to be longer than average. You tend to tolerate the various procedures and chemotherapy better if you are healthier. You’re also more likely to be eligible for surgery.
  • Gender. While men are four times more likely to have the disease than women, women have longer life spans than men. The reason for this difference is not yet clear.
  • Age. Younger patients tend to have a longer life span after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Older patients often have other medical conditions that make it more difficult to tolerate the treatment of mesothelioma.
  • Blood factors. If you have a high platelet count and a high white blood cell count, you may have a shorter lifespan.
  • Type of treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation are common for all mesothelioma stages, locations and cell types. Surgery plays the biggest role in life span. Surgery for pleural mesothelioma can double 1-year survival rates. Some people with pleural mesothelioma who get intraoperative heated chemotherapy can live longer than three years. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients have cytoreduction with HIPEC. These patients have the potential to live longer than five years. Those who have multimodal therapy tend to live longer compared to those who have just one type of treatment. Multimodal therapy combines surgery with other types of treatment. They are given before, during or after surgery.
  • Experimental treatments. If you join a clinical trial, there is a chance that the treatment will be better than existing treatments. Clinical trials have given some patients alternatives when traditional treatment wasn’t working. Some treatments showing promise are immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy.

Surgical Survival Rates

Mesothelioma specialists widely agree that surgery is the best way to improve your prognosis. Surgery removes mesothelioma tumors, slowing down the spread of cancer cells. Doctors combine surgical procedures with other treatments to eliminate as much of the cancer as possible. Intraoperative chemotherapy and radiation are becoming more popular because of their effect on survival rates.

Here are 3 examples of the survival rates of patients who had surgical operations:

  • EPP followed by chemotherapy/radiation. Seventeen pleural mesothelioma patients in this study had an extrapleural pneumonectomy and adjuvant chemo and radiation. The 5-year survival rate was 19 percent. 3-year survival was 33 percent. This is about double the average survival rate of mesothelioma patients. The authors reported that their “results are similar to those of other studies,” showing that this is an effective treatment option. Patients in the study were about 69 years old, over 70 percent had epithelioid cell types and were between stage 1 and 3.
  • P/D with high-dose radiation. In a 2017 report, 20 patients received this treatment and more than doubled their life expectancy. The overall 3-year survival rate was 49 percent. Nineteen of the patients also received standard chemotherapy at some point. The authors said the survival rates reported here were “among the best observed in recent studies.”
  • Cytoreduction and HIPEC. Researchers evaluated patients who had heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy with and without cytoreduction. Ten of the peritoneal mesothelioma patients had surgery and HIPEC. Those 10 patients had a 2-year survival rate of 83 percent. The 2-year survival rate for patients who got HIPEC without cytoreduction was 44 percent.

Doctors report the results of their patients survival in every medical study of mesothelioma surgery. Every study is different. As a whole, surgery is beneficial to survival rates. But this doesn’t show the smaller picture. Every patient responds differently to surgery. This depends on their diagnosis. So every study doctors conduct on surgery depends on the types of patients in the study.

Some factors that affect surgical survival rates include:

  • Cell type: Studies that have a higher percentage of epithelioid type patients will have higher survival rates.
  • Stage or metastasis: Patients in earlier stages of mesothelioma usually respond better to surgery. Their tumors are smaller and more confined, making it easier to remove. Some studies include a large number of advanced stage patients. These studies could have less impressive survival rates.
  • Lymph node involvement: Studies of surgical procedures have strict recruiting criteria. Doctors pick patients with a specific diagnosis. One important factor is lymph node involvement. Patients whose disease hasn’t yet spread to the lymph nodes benefit most from surgery. Doctors will often report separately on the survival rates of patients with and without lymph node involvement. But a overall survival statistic is still included.
  • Study size: Studies with a larger number of patients are probably more realistic. But it’s hard to have large studies on mesothelioma because the disease is so rare. Small studies may select the best candidates for long-term survival. It’s important for researchers to compare their results to other studies.

Ignoring Survival Rates and Improving Prognosis

Some of the most current survival rate statistics are still based on data from 5 to 8 years ago. In that time, new treatments and clinical trials have begun. You can improve your prognosis by ignoring survival statistics and focusing on treatment options.

Three important things to remember about survival rates are:

  • They aren’t up-to-date.
  • So they don’t reflect most recent research and survival times.
  • You don’t have to accept the statistics of your diagnosis.

There may still be treatment options you don’t know about. Talk to your doctor about getting a second opinion or participating in a clinical trial. There are also mesothelioma specialists at the Boston and Los Angeles VA who treat patients from all over the country. Find out more about treatment and other VA benefits now.