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Mesothelioma Survival Rates and Life Span

In the early days of mesothelioma, people could count their life expectancy in terms of how many months they had left to live.  Now, people can comfortably expect that living for years with the disease is possible, especially if the disease is caught in its early stages.

Mesothelioma Stage and your Lifespan

After the 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.  It depends on several different factors, including the stage at which the mesothelioma is diagnosed, the cell type you have, your age at the time of diagnosis, and state of your health when diagnosed with the disease.  Statistics also tell us that only about 40 percent of all mesothelioma patients survive for one year after the diagnosis of mesothelioma.

The stage of mesothelioma is directly related to your life expectancy, according to this research:

  • Stage I—21 months
  • Stage II—19 months
  • Stage III—16 months
  • Stage IV—12 months

Because each case of mesothelioma is unique, it is impossible to say exactly what treatments you will be offered and how long you will live.  As cutting edge treatment is being increasingly offered to patients, people are living longer and longer.  Clinical trials are also helping extend people’s lives who have mesothelioma.  People who get their care at specialty mesothelioma cancer centers tend to do better than those treated elsewhere.  This is why it is recommended that you find a mesothelioma specialist who has treated many others with the disease.

What Affects Survival Rates?

Survival Rates are determined by many different factors. These include:

  • Cancer Stage and Location. People with lower cancer stages and pleural disease live longer than people at higher stage disease and peritoneal or pericardial disease.  Depending on the location of your tumor, the stage, and the cell type, you will be offered different treatments that will impact your life span.
  • Type of Treatment. People with peritoneal cancer who undergo the cytoreduction with HIPEC procedure have the potential to live longer than five years.  This is much longer than people with pleural disease who have a pneumonectomy or pleurectomy with decortication procedure. Some people with pleural mesothelioma who receive surgery followed by heated chemotherapy in the pleural space can live longer than three years.
  • Cell type.  If you have the epithelioid cell type of mesothelioma, your lifespan tends to be longer than those who have the sarcomatoid cell type of mesothelioma.  Those who have mixed type mesothelioma (biphasic disease) have lifespans somewhere in between these two.
  • Overall health.  If you are healthy at the time of diagnosis of mesothelioma, your lifespan tends to be longer than those who are of poor health when they are diagnosed with the disease.  You tend to tolerate the various procedures and chemotherapy better if you are healthier.
  • Gender.  While men are four times more likely to have the disease than women, women have longer lifespans if they do get mesothelioma.  The reason for this difference is not yet clear.
  • Age.  If you are younger, you tend to have a longer lifespan after being diagnosed with mesothelioma than if you are older and more debilitated.  Older people tend to 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.  There are a number of biomarkers doctors sometimes test for.  Talk to your mesothelioma specialist about biomarkers and what they mean when it comes to lifespan.
  • Type of treatment.  Your doctor will select the kinds of treatment most appropriate for the type and location of mesothelioma you have.  Those who have multimodal therapy (several different types of therapy, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation) tend to have a longer lifespan when compared to those who have just one type of treatment.  Multimodal therapy is generally offered to those who are in stage I or stage II of the disease because the chances of advancing your lifespan are higher.  Those who have high dose radiation have been found in one study to live longer than those who don’t have this procedure.
  • Experimental treatments. If you join a clinical trial, there is a chance that the treatment will be better than existing treatments and you will have a longer lifespan because of the experimental treatment. Experimental treatments can be risky but are important to consider if you want to extend your lifespan.  Experimental treatments like immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy are showing some promise when it comes to extending lifespan.
  • Alternative treatments. People who try alternative therapies such as acupuncture and nutritional programs tolerate mesothelioma treatments better and are able to have a reduction in side effects from mesothelioma treatments.  This can extend lifespan and make the quality of life better than with those who do not choose alternative therapies.
Sources & Author Edited: August 31, 2015

About the Writer

Senior Veteran Support Team

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center was created to provide information and assistance to veterans regarding treatment, clinical trials, and VA benefits for veterans suffering from asbestos illnesses. The MVC was founded by retired veterans and veterans advocates who have helped hundreds of veterans get approved for their VA benefits after developing mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer from their asbestos exposure in the military.

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