Mesothelioma Survival Rates
The survival rate of any disease refers to the percentage of patients that live for a specified period of time after diagnosis. The statistic is based on certain contributing factors, and it can give patients an idea of how long they may expect to live.
Overall, survival rates for mesothelioma are low. Only about 40 percent of U.S. mesothelioma patients survive one year. By the second year, less than 20 percent of patients are still alive. And by year four, the rate drops below 10 percent.
Malignant mesothelioma, a rare disease that typically attacks the lining of the lung or the lining of the abdomen, claimed more than 18,000 American lives between 1999 and 2005 - one death every 3.4 hours. Survival rates for mesothelioma cancer can vary because of age, gender, race and a number of other demographics.
Use our search tool to get more insight about your expected lifespan or that of your loved one. Although it is impossible to predict every case with specificity, this will give you a general idea of what to expect in terms of life expectancy. Select the appropriate age range, race and gender.
Search Statistics on Mesothelioma Survival Rates
Because of mesothelioma's decades-long latency period, individuals often don't feel symptoms until they are older, which increases the average age of patients. Individuals exposed to asbestos decades earlier usually don't develop symptoms of mesothelioma until they are at least in their 50s. Because of this, mesothelioma patients die at a median age of 74 years old, and more than three-fourths are 65 years or older.
Older patients have a much lower survival rate than younger ones. More than half of patients diagnosed before the age of 50 live one year, but less than one-third of patients 75 or older live the same amount of time. Rates are similar for long-term survival. Younger patients have a 20 percent chance of living a decade; older individuals only have a 1 percent chance.
This difference is largely because younger patients are eligible for more intensive treatments like surgery. Older individuals may not be candidates for these procedures because of overall poor health or a high risk of complications.
Most asbestos exposure occursin the workplace and in industrial jobs typically held by men. That helps explain why about 81 percent of mesothelioma patients are men. The few women who do develop mesothelioma usually were exposed to asbestos by living near asbestos mines or factories or by living with someone who was directly exposed to asbestos.
Studies show women usually respond better to mesothelioma treatments, which may explain their higher survival rates. Women have better rates than men for both short-term survival and long-term survival. About 46 percent of women live one year, compared to only 37 percent of men. And 11 percent of women live a decade, while only 2 percent of men live as long.
Mesothelioma is almost exclusive to white individuals, who make up 95 percent of patients. This vast difference may be in large part because black and Hispanic individuals are less likely to be diagnosed with any type of cancer, mesothelioma included. Data from Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) state that African Americans and Hispanics account for only 8 percent of all cancer diagnoses.
Race, however, does not affect initial survival times. About 40 percent of patients live one year, regardless of race. As time goes on, race becomes a more telling factor and white patients have slightly worse long-term survival rates. For white patients, 8 percent live five years, and half of those patients live another five years. Comparatively, 12 percent of black and Hispanic patients live five years, and 9 percent live 10 years.
Like the incidence rates for race, the survival rates are not fully understood. One 2010 report that studied mesothelioma rates from 1990 to 2004 concluded that although black and Hispanic patients have better long-term survivals, they are less likely to receive surgery. Whereas a quarter of white patients received surgery during this time, only 14 percent of black patients underwent a surgical procedure.
Site of Cancer
Data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) show that peritoneal mesothelioma patients have overall higher short- and long-term survival rates than pleural mesothelioma patients. Collected between 1988 and 2001, they show one-year survival rates as comparable: peritoneal mesothelioma at 42 percent, pleural mesothelioma at 38 percent. The survival gap becomes larger over the next few years. While more than 25 percent of peritoneal mesothelioma patients are alive at three years, only 11 percent of pleural mesothelioma patients live this long.
The data from NCI do not include other types of mesothelioma because they are so rare, but these rare types have been studied separately. A 2009 study plotted the survival rates for pericardial mesothelioma. The study found similarly low survival rates, with about 40 percent of patients surviving one year. Testicular mesothelioma has the best survival rates. Nearly half of all testicular mesothelioma patients live two years or longer.
State and Region
Mesothelioma predominantly affects groups living in more industrial states or those with naturally occurring asbestos deposits. While survival rates by state are not significant, death rates can be used to describe the total number of deaths in each state. This figure is usually expressed in deaths per million, meaning the number of deaths is for every million residents of the state. The basic formula is this:
Death Rate (in deaths per million) = (Mesothelioma Deaths / Total Population) * 1,000,000
For example, if the total number of residents in a state is 2 million and a total of 10 people died of mesothelioma, the death rate is 5 deaths per million. This formula provides a way of accounting for vast population differences. A state may have a high number of deaths but a low death rate. This can happen in more populous states.
Based on data from 1999 to 2005, Maine has the highest death rate of 27.5 deaths per million people. Only five other states have a comparable death rate of more than 20 deaths per million people.
These states and their death rates are:
- Wyoming (22.2 deaths per million).
- West Virginia (21.0 deaths per million).
- Pennsylvania (20.8 deaths per million).
- New Jersey (20.2 deaths per million).
- and Washington (20.1 deaths per million).
Stage of Cancer
The stage at which mesothelioma is diagnosed can be a good predictor of overall survival rates. This is only for patients with pleural mesothelioma, which is the only form of the cancer that has a staging system. If patients have earlier stages of mesothelioma, the cancer has not substantially spread beyond the lining of the lungs. This means patients have more treatment options such as surgery which can improve survival rates. Normally, mesothelioma is not diagnosed until it reaches Stage III or Stage IV, the last stages of development. This can include a larger tumor or cancer growth throughout the body. Later stages of mesothelioma are more difficult to treat effectively, so these patients have worse survival rates.
A 1996 study observed survival rates for 131 pleural mesothelioma patients. It found that at one year, more than 90 percent of patients with Stage I cancer were alive, but only about one-third of patients with Stage 4 mesothelioma survived as long. This trend continued into longer-term survival. At three years, more than 40 percent of Stage I patients were still alive, compared to less than 5 percent of Stage IV patients.
The histology, or cellular makeup, of a mesothelioma tumor also provides an accurate predictor for survival rate. Epithelial tumors are made up of more consistent and uniform cell patterns, whereas non-epithelial tumors have messy and random cellular patterns. This is an important distinction because the straightforward patterns of epithelioid mesothelioma respond better to treatment. For that reason, patients with epithelioid mesothelioma live longer.
The 1996 study of 131 pleural mesothelioma patients also grouped individuals by epithelial or non-epithelial tumors. About a quarter of patients with non-epithelial tumors lived for one year, compared to more than 60 percent of those with epithelial tumors. Every patient in the study with non-epithelioid mesothelioma died within three years of diagnosis. Comparatively, a small amount of patients with epithelioid mesothelioma reached four or five years.
Extending Survival Time
Learn more about your expected life span and what you can do to live longer. Visit a mesothelioma specialist for a health evaluation and a second opinion about your treatment options. To find the specialist nearest you, use the Mesothelioma Center's free Doctor Match Program.