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Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma cancer is an aggressive malignancy whose symptoms typically don’t manifest until later stages. Therefore, life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is generally short.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Median life expectancy for mesothelioma patients usually ranges from 12 to 21 months, depending on the stage of the disease at diagnosis, with approximately 40 percent of patients living beyond one year and 20 percent living beyond two years.
Long-term survival is extremely rare, with fewer than 10 percent of patients living beyond 5 years. Life expectancy varies greatly from patient to patient based on a number of individual factors and circumstances.
While treatment is available for most patients, doctors and cancer specialists will typically reserve aggressive therapies for those patients whose life expectancy is truly anticipated to be extended through these methods. Treatment for patients in the advanced stages of the disease is usually palliative rather than curative.
While a mesothelioma patient’s life expectancy is innately tied to prognostic and histopathological factors, a patient’s eligibility to undergo aggressive treatment is also tied to his or her ability to manage the side effects associated with these therapies. In some cases, patients who integrate holistic therapy and alternative methods of cancer treatment into traditional therapy regimens have lived beyond their original prognosis.
Though life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is still relatively short, it has steadily increased in recent years as a result of more funding being dedicated for mesothelioma research and scholarship. Improved methods of detection and innovative treatments provide hope that life expectancy will continue to improve, and participation in clinical trials can give patients access to new and experimental methods of fighting the disease.
Factors that contribute to an educated assessment of mesothelioma life expectancy are listed below.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Prognostic Factors

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy


Generally speaking, older mesothelioma patients have a shorter life expectancy. This is due in part to the relationship between a patient’s age and their overall health, the extent of the disease, and their eligibility for aggressive treatment. In a study of 167 mesothelioma patients, those diagnosed at the age of the 65 years and younger had a median life expectancy of 359 days. Those diagnosed between the ages of 65 and 74 years had a medial survival period of 242 days. Patients over the age of 75 diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma had a median life expectancy of 112 days.


Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Because the disease has not spread extensively in stage I and II, an early diagnosis can improve life expectancy. By the time the disease reaches stage III and IV, it has progressed beyond the point of origin and other factors begin to affect patient timetables. For this reason, improving methods of mesothelioma detection and diagnosis are crucial to extending life expectancies.
Median life expectancies for patients in each stage are as follows:
  • Stage I: 21 months
  • Stage II: 19 months
  • Stage III: 16 months
  • Stage IV: 12 months

Eligibility for Aggressive Treatment

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Patients diagnosed with early-stage mesothelioma may be eligible for an aggressive treatment program involving surgical resection of the tumor and adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation. The surgery is an extensive procedure, so the patient must be in generally good health and not advanced in age.

Type of Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the lining of the lungs, accounts for approximately 80% of all diagnoses and generally offers a more favorable prognosis. The comparatively rare peritoneal mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma have a shorter life expectancy.

Cell Type

Malignant mesothelioma occurs in three different cell types: epithelial, sarcomatoid, and biphasic (a mix of the two). Approximately 60 – 70% of mesothelioma patients have the epithelial or sarcomatoid form, while the remaining 30 – 40% have the biphasic form. Patients diagnosed with biphasic mesothelioma generally have a less favorable life expectancy (142 days) than those diagnosed with epithelial or sarcomatoid (242, 207 days, respectively) sub-classifications of the malignancy.


Women have lower rates of mesothelioma. This is due in part to occupational differences, but life expectancy in women diagnosed with mesothelioma also tends to be longer than men. In the UK, approximately 4 out of every 10 women diagnosed survive beyond one year, compared to 3.4 out of every 10 men.

Blood Factors

Normal levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells can predict a longer period of survival with the disease. (Anemia, a decrease in hemoglobin or red blood cells, is a common side effect of mesothelioma.) Conversely, a high platelet or white blood cell count can signal a poor prognosis and reduced life expectancy. The presence of certain biomarkers in the blood may also affect life expectancy.


Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The latency of mesothelioma has been one of its greatest problems and may partly explain why a connection with asbestos exposure took so long to be accepted as the primary cause. Mesothelioma latency isn’t known exactly since exposure to asbestos doesn’t always equate directly or immediately to an insult to the tissues. Consequently, estimates of latency vary widely with mesothelioma patients being reported in age ranges from early teens to octogenarians.

For more information and detailed statistics in terms of the development of mesothelioma, visit theMesothelioma Development and Progression Section.
Assuming a diagnosis of mesothelioma is confirmed, staging of the disease remains extremely difficult and is an obstacle to effective treatment. Mesothelioma staging techniques require knowledge about where the tumor is located, how extensive it is and whether it is still locally contained or whether it has metastasized to organs or adjacent tissues.

Progression of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Stage 1 and 2 mesothelioma patients tend to be surgical candidates, while stage 3 and stage 4 patients are generally offered chemotherapy in combination therapies. (q) (r) (s) Radiation is rarely offered as a primary treatment since it has little effect on its own. The stages of mesothelioma, therefore, have a pivotal role in choosing treatment options and determining the prognosis for mesothelioma patients. Treatment options and outcomes are discussed in detail under the mesothelioma treatment section of this web site.
If you have more questions or are looking for personalized information, contact our nurse practitioner for resources and critical information to help you make sense of your mesothelioma diagnosis

Standardizing the Mesothelioma Staging Process

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Since staging is essential to selecting the appropriate mesothelioma treatment, much effort has been invested in developing an accurate pre-operative mesothelioma staging technique. Because of the difficulty of imaging the extent of mesothelioma and its presence or absence in the lymph nodes, staging pre-operatively remains a fairly imprecise process. Several recent attempts have been made to establish a standard process. (t)
Both the International Mesothelioma Interest Group and Brigham & Women's Hospital have developed systems used to identify the stages of mesothelioma based upon a common set of variables. These are:
  • T or tumor staging - what is the size and location of the tumor in relation to nearby organs and structures?
  • N or nodal staging - are lymph nodes positive or negative for meso?
  • M or metastatic staging - is there evidence of metastasis?
  • Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Each variable above is expressed as a number and the final combination is compared to a table to establish staging. Negative nodes and metastasis is represented as N0 and M0 Regardless of the mesothelioma staging system used, patients with stage 3 or higher disease are almost always only considered for chemotherapy. This is because stage 3 mesothelioma implies that the tumor is no longer locally contained and cannot be removed (resected) by surgical means.
Recent studies with genomics have added an additional set of considerations to outcome. An assay of the markers of genetic damage in a population of patients seems to co-relate certain genotypes to a better prognosis or outcome. While most of this material is just now being published, it may soon be possible to examine mesothelioma cells for DNA markers that can forecast whether the patient would benefit from aggressive surgical treatment or not.

Progression of Meso and Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Since symptoms are often misdiagnosed or even absent during early stages, the rate of mesothelioma progression is also a guess. The most commonly available figures pertain to median survival time from the date of diagnosis but many mesothelioma experts believe the tumor may be in existence for quite some time before diagnosis.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Even survival times vary widely with no clear consensus emerging. On the low side, survival times of 4 to 8 months are reflected in the information to be gleaned from obituaries and tributes paid to the afflicted. On the high side, 12 to 18 months is considered the norm, although this number is demonstrating some upward movement and tends to become differentiated when mesothelioma types, categories and treatments are considered as part of the assessment.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

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