Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Quick Summary

The average 1-year survival rate for mesothelioma is roughly 80%, but this percentage is slowly improving. Pleural mesothelioma has a median 1-year survival rate of 73.1%, according to a 2015 Translational Oncology report. Peritoneal mesothelioma has a median 1-year survival rate of 91.6%.

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What Is the Survival Rate of Mesothelioma?

Survival rates refer to the percentage of patients still living after a period of time. Since most mesothelioma patients are diagnosed as seniors, long-term survival is lower than other diseases that largely affect younger people.

8 out of 10 patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma or peritoneal mesothelioma will live at least 1 year following their diagnosis.

Mesothelioma Type1-Year Survival Rate3-Year Survival Rate
Pleural Mesothelioma73.1%22.9%
Peritoneal Mesothelioma91.6%65.3%
Pericardial Mesothelioma26%14%
Sources: Changing Pattern in Malignant Mesothelioma Survival (2015); Characteristics and Survival of Malignant Cardiac Tumors (2015)

Mesothelioma survival rates depend on many variables, including:

  • The age and overall health of the patient
  • The cell type found in the patient’s tumor(s)
  • The stage at which the cancer is diagnosed
  • Where the tumors are located in the body
  • What treatment options are available

Mesothelioma has a poorer survival rate than other types of cancer. However, many patients have achieved long-term survival with the help of new or improved treatments.

Learn more about survival rates and how to live longer with mesothelioma. Get a free veterans packet today.

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Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs and has a poor survival rate. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the five-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is 10% or lower.

Early-stage (stages 1 and 2) pleural mesothelioma patients usually have better survival rates than later-stage (stages 3 and 4) patients.

Stage 1 Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Patients with stage 1 pleural mesothelioma have the highest survival rates of all stages.

2-Year Survival Rate5-Year Survival Rate
45%16%
Source: The IASLC Mesothelioma Staging Project (2016)

Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma often qualify for life-extending surgeries. This is because their tumors are still small enough to remove.

Stage 2 Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Stage 2 pleural mesothelioma patients have a similar survival rate to stage 1 patients.

2-Year Survival Rate5-Year Survival Rate
41%13%
Source: The IASLC Mesothelioma Staging Project (2016)

Patients with stage 2 mesothelioma can typically withstand surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. These aggressive treatments are key to helping patients live longer.

Stage 3 Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Stage 3 pleural mesothelioma patients have a lower chance of long-term survival. By this point, their cancer has started to spread to more distant regions in the body.

2-Year Survival Rate5-Year Survival Rate
37%11%
Source: The IASLC Mesothelioma Staging Project (2016)

Patients with stage 3 mesothelioma may not be able to safely undergo curative surgery.

Stage 4 Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Patients diagnosed with stage 4 pleural mesothelioma have the lowest survival rates of all mesothelioma stages.

2-Year Survival Rate5-Year Survival Rate
26%4%
Source: The IASLC Mesothelioma Staging Project (2016)

By stage 4, most patients can only receive palliative treatments to reduce painful symptoms.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen and is the second most common type of this cancer. Peritoneal mesothelioma has high survival rates due to advancements in treatments.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates
1-Year Survival Rate91.6%
3-Year Survival Rate73.8%
5-Year Survival Rate65.3%
10-Year Survival Rate39.4%

The most notable treatment that helps improve survival among patients is known as cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).

About half of patients who undergo cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC live for at least 5 years following the procedure, according to a 2019 study.

“For patients referred very early, I would say we are successful nearly 100% of the time. We can almost promise those patients [who undergo complete cytoreduction with HIPEC] that they will not have further peritoneal metastases.”

– Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, Peritoneal Mesothelioma Specialist

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Survival Rates for Other Mesothelioma Types

Most patients with pericardial mesothelioma (which develops in the lining of the heart) do not live longer than 6 months. A 2015 study found that the average 1-year survival rate for pericardial mesothelioma was 26%. The 5-year survival rate was just 9%.

Pericardial mesothelioma has a poor survival rate as it:

  • Is difficult to operate on
  • Is often diagnosed at a late stage
  • Responds poorly to chemotherapy and radiation

Testicular mesothelioma (which develops in the lining of the testes) has a much higher survival rate. A 2019 study found that 49% of patients with testicular mesothelioma were still alive 5 years after diagnosis. In addition, 33% of patients were still alive after 10 years.

Survival Rates by Mesothelioma Cell Type

Survival rates can also be affected by the type of cancer cells a patient’s tumors are made of. The 3 main cell types for mesothelioma are epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic.

A patient’s cell type impacts survival rate as some cells divide more quickly. This can cause the cancer to spread faster and make treatments less effective.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common cell type and has the best survival rate overall.

2-Year Survival Rate5-Year Survival Rate
65%27%
Source: Dana Farber Cancer Institute

*All patients in the data above received a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Epithelial cells grow slower than the other mesothelioma cell types and respond better to treatment. This contributes to a higher survival rate among epithelioid mesothelioma patients.

Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the rarest of all 3 cell types and has the lowest survival rate.

2-Year Survival Rate5-Year Survival Rate
20%0%
Source: Dana Farber Cancer Institute

*All patients in the data above received a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Sarcomatoid cells spread quickly, and patients with this cell type often have limited treatment options. These factors greatly limit the overall survival rate of patients.

Biphasic Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Biphasic tumors are made up of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells.

Survival times for patients with biphasic mesothelioma vary depending on the ratio of each cell type. A biphasic tumor with more epithelioid cells typically means a higher survival rate.

How Do Demographic Factors Affect Survival Rates?

A patient’s age, sex, and other traits affect how long they live after a mesothelioma diagnosis. Age at diagnosis has a particularly big impact on mesothelioma survival rates.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Gender

Women with mesothelioma have better survival rates than men, even when researchers account for factors like age and stage at diagnosis.

Did You Know?

Women with pleural mesothelioma are roughly 3 times more likely than men to live for at least 5 years after diagnosis, according to a 2014 study.

Higher estrogen levels and lower rates of asbestos exposure may be why women have better survival rates.

Women are also more likely to develop peritoneal mesothelioma, which has a better survival rate than pleural mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Age

Younger mesothelioma patients have better survival rates than older patients. Those diagnosed at 45 or younger have a 5-year survival rate that is 8 times higher than patients diagnosed after 65.

Age5-Year Survival Rate
Younger than 4542.2%
45-5423.3%
55-6414.3%
65-748.9%
Older than 754.6%
Source: NCI SEER Data

Older patients are also more likely to have other health issues when they are diagnosed with mesothelioma. These can limit their treatment options and survival time.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Race

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) found that white Americans had lower five-year survival rates than black Americans.

Race1-Year Survival Rate5-Year Survival Rate
Caucasian42.7%8.7%
African-American38.6%10.4%
All Races42.3%9.2%
Source: NCI SEER Data, 2012

White Americans worked jobs that relied on asbestos-based products far more often than other races. This may be linked to their lower survival rates. However, specialists do not yet know why these differences exist.

Improving Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Mesothelioma survival rates improve as new and better treatments become available. Veterans can live longer with mesothelioma by getting prompt treatments and managing their overall health.

Undergo Curative Treatment

Curative treatment, which removes all tumors and metastases (tumor spread), gives patients a better prognosis.

Survival rates for patients who undergo surgery for mesothelioma can be 3 to 15 times higher compared to those who go untreated.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates After Surgery

Mesothelioma TypeSurgery5-Year Survival Rate
PleuralPleurectomy with decortication (P/D)44%
PleuralExtrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)11%
PeritonealCytoreduction with HIPEC29-59%

Mesothelioma survival rates after surgery are often higher for those who receive chemotherapy or radiation before or after their procedures.

The survival rates of mesothelioma patients treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy alone were also higher in some studies. Doctors are still debating their effectiveness, though.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates Without Treatment

Veterans with mesothelioma have lower survival rates if they do not get treated.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates Without Treatment
3-Year Survival Rate7.9%
5-Year Survival Rate3.5%

Even if a veteran cannot undergo surgery, they can still work with a doctor to see if other treatments like radiation and chemotherapy may help improve their lifespan.

Join a Clinical Trial

Veterans and civilians alike can join clinical trials for mesothelioma to access new treatments that are not yet available to the general public.

According to the Moffitt Cancer Center, mesothelioma survival rates are often improved by new therapies like immunotherapy and cancer vaccines.

If you are interested in joining a clinical trial, talk to your primary care doctor to see if you may qualify.

Immunotherapy Spotlight

Clinical trials sometimes lead to widely available cancer treatments, such as immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is the newest treatment for mesothelioma. Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer.

In October 2020, the FDA approved immunotherapy drugs Opdivo® and Yervoy® to treat mesothelioma. The approval came after clinical trials showed patients treated with immunotherapy had a median survival time of 18 months. Those treated with just chemotherapy in the study had a median survival of only 14 months.

New immunotherapies are also being studied in other clinical trials. For example, the use of dendritic cell vaccines has shown promising results.

Dendritic cells are found in the immune system. In a Phase I clinical trial, pleural mesothelioma patients who received dendritic cell vaccines had a median survival of 19 months. In fact, 90% of patients were still alive after this 19-month mark.

Improve Mesothelioma Survival Rates With Medical Care

Veterans with mesothelioma can beat the odds and live for years after a diagnosis. One of the best ways to improve survival time is to seek medical care from a mesothelioma doctor.

The VA has some of the best mesothelioma specialists in the country at their VA medical centers. These doctors can help you understand mesothelioma survival rates and see which treatments will work best for you.

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center can help you get connected with a mesothelioma specialist. Learn more with a free case review.

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Mesothelioma Survival Rates FAQ

Has anyone survived mesothelioma?

Yes. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but some patients live years longer than the average survival time.

Mesothelioma survivors include:

  • Jim: A Navy veteran, Jim was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and given only a few months to live. Jim surprised his doctors and loved ones by living for over a year and a half.
  • Richard: Richard served in the Air Force during the early 1950s when asbestos-based products were used to build airplanes. He was given a week to live after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis in 2017. Thankfully, Richard was able to survive for much longer.
  • Heather: Heather received her mesothelioma diagnosis in 2006. Heather’s doctors said she would only live for a year-and-a-half. 14 years later, Heather is still alive and serves as an advocate for all with mesothelioma.

Learn more about other mesothelioma survivors and how they beat the odds.

How do doctors determine survival rates?

Doctors determine mesothelioma survival rates by tracking when someone is diagnosed with mesothelioma and how long they live. They then calculate the percentage of patients who live for a certain number of years after diagnosis to get the survival rate.

Is a survival rate different from life expectancy?

Yes. Mesothelioma life expectancy measures the amount of time patients can expect to live (usually in months or years). Survival rates measure the number of patients who survive for a certain amount of time after diagnosis.

Was I diagnosed properly?

Mesothelioma is rare, takes 20-50 years to develop, and has vague symptoms that mimic other illnesses. For these reasons, general doctors may have a hard time diagnosing it.

If you are showing any symptoms of mesothelioma, consult your doctor, especially if you have a history of asbestos exposure.

If you have already received a mesothelioma diagnosis, a second opinion from a mesothelioma specialist may help confirm your disease stage or cell type. This ensures you can get the most effective treatments.

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.

View Sources

American Cancer Society. “Survival Statistics for Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-statistics.html. Accessed on August 29th, 2017.

Casiraghi, Monica. Cardio-Thoracic Surgery. “Induction chemotherapy, extrapleural pneumonectomy and adjuvant radiotherapy for malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.” 2017. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/ejcts/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/ejcts/ezx122/3805405/Induction-chemotherapy-extrapleural-pneumonectomy?redirectedFrom=fulltext. Accessed on August 29th, 2017.  

Le Roy, Florence. Annals of Surgical Oncology. “Conversion to Complete Cytoreductive Surgery and Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy for Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma After Bidirectional Chemotherapy.” Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1245/s10434-017-6033-x. Accessed on September 19th, 2017.  

Minatel, Emilio. Lung Cancer.“Radical pleurectomy/decortication followed by high dose of radiation therapy for malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Final results with long-term follow-up.” 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169500213004571. Accessed on September 19th, 2017.

National Cancer Institute. Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program. Retrieved from: https://seer.cancer.gov/faststats/selections.php?#Output. Accessed on August 29th, 2017.

Rea, Federico. Lung Cancer. “Induction chemotherapy, extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and adjuvant hemi-thoracic radiation in malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM): Feasibility and results.” 2007. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169500207001134. Accessed on September 19th, 2017.

Sugarbaker, David. “Extrapleural pneumonectomy in the multimodality therapy of malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Results in 120 consecutive patients.” Annals of Surgery. 1996. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1235368/. Accessed on August 29th, 2017.

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