Mesothelioma Prognosis

Your prognosis with mesothelioma depends mostly on the stage and type of cancer you have. Improving that prognosis can depend on finding a specialist with experience treating your form of the disease.

Typical Prognosis

Improving your prognosis starts with having the right information

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Cancer specialists diagnose between 2,000 and 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma a year in the United States. When they confirm the existence of asbestos cancer, they quickly turn to prognosis — their best estimate of your battle ahead and also the probable outcome. Mesothelioma is a difficult disease to beat. And while there are many aspects to it that you can't control, there are things that you can do to help improve your quality of life and possibly improve your survival.

Although prognosis varies greatly depending on the factors described above, younger patients appear to have the most optimistic prognosis. A 2,959-patient study conducted by the American Cancer Society (ACS) noted that nearly 37 percent of mesothelioma patients younger than 45 years old survived for more than five years after diagnosis.

Approximately 20 percent of patients aged 45 to 54 survived for longer than five years. According to a study published by the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the survival rate for patients is generally considered to be one year.

Patients Surviving 3 or More Years Following a Mesothelioma Diagnosis (%)

Although the typical survival rate for patients is low, there have been long-term survivors of the disease. Read their survival stories on our Wall of Hope.

Factors That Affect Your Prognosis

Dr. Fontaine explains what treatments give patients the best chance to live longer

Your mesothelioma prognosis depends on several factors, including the cancer's stage, plus your age, gender, overall health and history of asbestos exposure. Unique qualities of your cancer at the time of diagnosis such as the exact type of cancer you have, the cellular subtype, the stage of your cancer and whether your cancer has spread are all equally important in shaping prognosis.

These things also determine the treatments your doctor will recommend.

  • Type of Mesothelioma

    There are several types of mesothelioma, each with its own prognosis. Statistically speaking, peritoneal patients have a better chance at long-term survival than those with any other type.

    Research shows that approximately 40 percent of patients with the pleural form of the disease will survive for one year after diagnosis, while new treatments for peritoneal like heated chemotherapy have increased survival to more than seven years for some patients.

    Pleural Mesothelioma 5-Year Survival Chart

    10 percent of pleural mesothelioma patients survive > 5 years

    The prognosis for pericardial mesothelioma is generally worse than for pleural and peritoneal. And while testicular mesothelioma is the rarest type, its prognosis is typically the best.

    Learn more about the different types of mesothelioma
  • Stage of Mesothelioma

    The size of a tumor and how far it has spread (metastasized) from its original location affects prognosis. Doctors typically discuss tumor size and the extent of a cancer's spread in terms of stages, ranging from stage I to stage IV in order of severity. Patients with stage I or stage II (early-stage) will typically have a better prognosis than patients with stage III or stage IV (advanced).

    In stage I and II, the cancer hasn’t metastasized much and remains contained within the lung lining and lung tissue, allowing for easier removal of tumors through surgery. By stage III, the cancer is still operable, but has metastasized beyond the lung and its lining and into the chest wall, nearby lymph nodes or the heart’s lining. Metastasis at stage IV is so extensive — tumors spread beyond the chest and into the spine, abdomen or other body parts — that surgery becomes ineffective.

    Learn more about the stages of mesothelioma
  • Cell Type Impacts Survival

    The type of cells that make up your tumor, what doctors call histology, can impact your prognosis. Patients with epithelial mesothelioma generally have a better life expectancy than those with either the sarcomatoid or biphasic subtypes.

    Learn more about cell types
  • Progression of Symptoms

    Patients suffering from serious symptoms, like severe chest pain or difficulty breathing, may have a worse outlook. This is because the presence of symptoms often means cancer has already progressed to a later stage of development.

    Learn more about the symptoms of mesothelioma
  • Overall Health

    People in otherwise good health may qualify for treatments that are more intensive. On the other hand, if you have pre-existing health issues, you may not be able to tolerate aggressive surgery or chemotherapy. Additionally, non-smokers often have a better mesothelioma prognosis than patients who smoke.

  • Additional factors, such as age, gender and history of asbestos exposure can also affect your prognosis.

    Favorable Prognostic Factors Poor Prognostic Factors
    Stage I or Stage II cancer Stage III or Stage IV cancer
    Tumor located in one area of the body Tumor has spread to other parts of the body
    Good overall health Pre-existing health conditions or poor overall health
    Epithelial cell type Sarcomatoid or biphasic cell type
    Age 55 or below Over age 55
    Non-smoker Smoker
    Female Male

Current Prognosis Studies: As results from ongoing asbestos-related cancer studies surface, doctors learn more about the diseases. New data leads to more accurate prognosis estimates. New research on cases reported to the National Cancer Institute from 2003 to 2009 show that 14.1 percent of women with pleural mesothelioma survive for five years, compared with only 6 percent of men. Additionally, a 2011 pleural mesothelioma study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts involving 636 patients found that patients who underwent an aggressive surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) experienced extended survival.

Another surgery called pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) has improved survival. A 2012 European study reported longer survival among epithelioid pleural mesothelioma patients who had a pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) surgery versus EPP surgery. Patients who had a P/D lived an average of 30 months while EPP patients lived for 14 months.

A 2015 Italian study found that age, epithelioid cell type and cancer-free lymph nodes were prognostic factors associated with long-term survival in pleural mesothelioma patients who had an EPP. Nearly 23 percent of the study’s 468 participants lived longer than three years.

Improving and Beating Your Prognosis

While you can't change important prognostic factors like your age, gender or cancer stage, you can choose to be proactive and take steps to improve your prognosis.

Find a Mesothelioma Specialist

A specialist is essential in providing you or a loved one with a treatment plan that can improve your life expectancy.

Find a Specialist Connect with a Top Mesothelioma Doctor

Beating the typical prognosis is happening more frequently with advances in treatment and care for mesothelioma patients. Survivors credit life span increases to multimodal treatment, improvements in nutrition and complementary medicines. There are other factors and ways that can play a part in improving a patient's prognosis.

Early Detection

Those diagnosed early in the cancer’s development have the best prognosis and longest survival. If doctors can diagnose the disease before it spreads into lymph nodes and to other parts of the body, treatment is more successful.

Other Ways

Enrolling in a clinical trial might improve your prognosis. These studies test up-and-coming therapies that may be more effective than current treatment options.

Once you've started treatment, you can take a few extra steps to improve your chances of recovery. If you're a smoker, find a cessation program. Smoking increases your risk of lung complications if you opt for surgery, so you should stop immediately. You can also talk to an oncology dietitian about how to strengthen your body through your diet, or ask your practitioner about complementary therapies that can help control your symptoms.

Survivors Who Have Surpassed Their Prognosis

Living with mesothelioma is far from easy, but not impossible. The latest treatment regimens, which often combine surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, have helped many people survive past the disease's average life expectancy of one year. In some exceptional cases, mesothelioma survivors have lived with the cancer for more than a decade.

  • Judy G.

    Judy Glezinkski & Mesothelioma

    Judy, diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 1990, survived nearly 20 years. She extended her prognosis with extensive surgeries and radiation therapy. She also drank mangosteen juice and believed in the power of prayer. Judy shared her journey with the mesothelioma community in a book, Surviving Mesothelioma: Making your Own Miracle.

    Read Judy's full story in our free book
  • Wayne N.

    Wayne Neal & Mesothelioma

    Wayne, another 20-year survivor, is a former union electrician who was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1991. Still fighting, Wayne attributes his success to antioxidants found in red tart cherries, which he eats nightly.

    Read Wayne's full story
  • Kasie Coleman

    Kasie Coleman Mesothelioma Survivor

    Kasie Coleman is a wife and mother of two who was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2010. After a series of misdiagnoses, Kasie opted for several cycles of chemotherapy and two HIPEC (surgery with heated chemotherapy) treatments that put her cancer into remission in 2012. Since then, she has opened her own cupcake bakery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

    In one of several blogs she's written for The Mesothelioma Center, Kasie stresses the importance of keeping a positive attitude and viewing yourself as an exception to mesothelioma's bleak prognosis. Hold tight to the hope that you'll join the growing community of remarkable mesothelioma survivors.

    Read Kasie's full story

Additional Resources


Karen Selby is a registered nurse and a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. She worked in several subspecialties within nursing before joining Asbestos.com in 2009.

  1. American Cancer Society. (2015, May 18). What are the key statistics of malignant mesothelioma? Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/MalignantMesothelioma/DetailedGuide/malignant-mesothelioma-key-statistics
  2. National Cancer Institute. (2015, April 2). Malignant mesothelioma Treatment (PDQ). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malignantmesothelioma/patient#Keypoint5
  3. National Cancer Institute. (2013). SEER Cancer Statistics Reviews 1975-2010: Mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://seer.cancer.gov/archive/csr/1975_2010/results_merged/sect_17_mesothelioma.pdf
  4. Lindenmann, J., Matzi, V., Neuboeck, N., et al. Multimodal therapy of malignant pleural mesothelioma: Is the replacement of radical surgery imminent? Interactive CarioVascular and Thoracic Surgery. 2012; 16:237-243. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivs465
  5. Leuzzi, G., Rea, F., Spaggiari, L., et al. Prognostic score of long-term survival after surgery for malignant pleural mesothelioma: A multicenter analysis. Ann Thorac Surg. 2015; doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2015.04.087

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