Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
The average life expectancy for a mesothelioma patient is 4-18 months. Some people can live as long as 10 years or more. Treatment may extend survival and improve quality of life, but early detection is critical for the best outcomes.
Written by Dr. Daniel A. Landau Edited By Walter Pacheco Medically Reviewed By Dr. Jacques Fontaine
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Landau, D. A. (2023, March 14). Mesothelioma Life Expectancy. Asbestos.com. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from https://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/life-expectancy/
Landau, Daniel A. "Mesothelioma Life Expectancy." Asbestos.com, 14 Mar 2023, https://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/life-expectancy/.
Landau, Daniel A. "Mesothelioma Life Expectancy." Asbestos.com. Last modified March 14, 2023. https://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/life-expectancy/.
What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma life expectancy varies between six months and five years. Survival rates depend on cancer location, stage, cell type, treatment and other factors. Age, gender and general health also have an impact. Survival is challenging to approximate compared to more common cancers.
Survival statistics are general estimates that overlap with mesothelioma prognosis. A prognosis is a prediction of how well you might respond to treatment. Life expectancy and lifespan describe how long someone might live with mesothelioma.
Every patient is unique, and no two cases are the same. Everyone has diverse variables that impact their respective life expectancy. These can improve with specialized treatment and changes to lifestyle habits.
Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
People with pleural mesothelioma live an average of three years with surgery. This disease affects the outer membrane of the lungs.
About 75% of all patients with this diagnosis live one year after diagnosis.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Patients with mesothelioma in the abdomen have a life expectancy of about 12 months with chemotherapy. About 50% of patients live five years or more with aggressive treatments such as surgery.
Surgery for this variant is more accessible compared to pleural disease. Surgical treatment extends average survival longer than with pleural patients.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Pericardial mesothelioma has an average life expectancy of three to 10 months.
The pericardial variant develops in the heart’s protective sac. This makes surgical options for extending life expectancy more challenging. This is one of the rarest variants, affecting only 1% of patients.
Testicular Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Life expectancy for testicular mesothelioma is between 20 months and two years. Some patients with an early diagnosis have lived several years after surgery.
The testicular form is a rare variant, comprising about 5% of cases. The prognosis is better than other forms of the disease. Surgery is also generally more accessible.
Key Factors of Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Early detection and treatment are critical factors in defining life expectancy. With prognosis, these form an outlook of how cancer will affect your body and life span.
There are aspects of your cancer you can’t control, such as cancer cell type and stage. Some matters you can take into your own hands. These include mesothelioma treatments, clinical trials and lifestyle choices.
The stage of mesothelioma is a vital factor in your diagnosis and life expectancy. Doctors measure stages from 1 to 4. These describe the extent of metastasis or tumor growth at the time of diagnosis. For example, late-stage mesothelioma patients on chemotherapy alone have a one-year life expectancy.
Surgery is most effective for patients with early-stage cancer. The treatment can extend life expectancy by about two years. As cancer worsens, surgery becomes less effective and is a higher risk. Some surgeries can reduce pain and other symptoms through palliative therapy.
As tumors grow, they may press against vital organs. Pleural mesothelioma tumors can impact the heart and diaphragm. Large tumors in cardiac tissue can worsen life expectancy more than those in the chest wall.
Peritoneal tumors may damage the kidneys or liver. This can cause metabolic failures and various symptoms that make misdiagnosis more likely. Tumors in sensitive organs also make surgery riskier.
Life expectancy is higher for epithelial than sarcomatoid or biphasic cell types. Survival improved by an average of five months. Epithelial tumor cells respond better to treatment and are less likely to return.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma tends to be more aggressive. It has a greater tendency to metastasize and resist treatment. Sarcomatoid patients often respond better to immunotherapy drugs and other targeted therapies.
Younger people tend to have a longer life expectancy than older patients. They are often healthier and eligible for more treatments and clinical trials. Surgery can improve life expectancy in older mesothelioma patients but also has more risks.
A 2019 study from the National Cancer Database evaluated mesothelioma survival times. The study found a survival of 12.2 months for patients 80 years and older on surgery and chemotherapy. Patients who only received chemotherapy survived 9.5 months on average. Of the 8% of patients who had surgery, 28.5% died within 90 days.
Women are about four times less likely to have mesothelioma than men. Women with epithelial mesothelioma also live longer than men with the same cell type. In the past, more men held blue-collar jobs. These jobs had higher risks of asbestos exposure and related cancers.
The majority of women have the peritoneal form. This variant has a better life expectancy and prognosis. The American Journal of Surgical Pathology published a 2022 report on survival rate. The study showed a five-year survival rate of 77.8% in women. Five-year survival was 50% in men with the peritoneal variant. All patients in the study underwent cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy.
Overall Health and Lifestyle Choices
Chronic conditions can decrease life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis. These include asbestosis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema (COPD), obesity, diabetes or heart disease. A healthy diet and regular exercise lower the risk of diabetes and cardiac disease. Chronic illness makes cancer management much more challenging.
Tobacco use does not cause mesothelioma but worsens general health. Smoking and asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer. Together, they lead to shorter survival after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
How Treatment Improves Life Expectancy
The life expectancy for stage 4 mesothelioma is approximately a year with treatment. Without treatment, the average is seven months. Screening and early detection improve life expectancy. An early diagnosis and aggressive, specialized therapies provide the most benefit.
Late-stage treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. Surgery is not a common option due to higher risks. A 2017 study from The Annals of Thoracic Surgery found that surgery may have some benefits for late-stage mesothelioma patients. The results showed some patients lived three years after surgery.
Common Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Early-stage patients may be eligible for multimodal therapy. This method combines surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It can lower cancer resistance and increases life expectancy. Late-stage patients with an epithelial or biphasic cell type may also qualify.
- Surgery: Surgical procedures such as pleurectomy and decortication can improve life expectancy by more than 45%.
- Chemotherapy: Pemetrexed (Alimta) and cisplatin chemotherapy nearly double life expectancy for some patients compared to no treatment.
- Radiation: Radiotherapy is an effective alternative for patients who aren’t candidates for surgery. The combination can improve life expectancy by about 40%.
- Immunotherapy: Checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy, such as Opdivo and Yervoy, improves life expectancy by about 30% for some patients.
- TTFields: The FDA approved Tumor Treating Fields for mesothelioma in 2020. It can extend life expectancy by nearly 50%.
Clinical trial treatments can improve life expectancy. These drugs use the immune system or gene therapy to treat cancer. Clinical research programs offer new treatments to test safety and effectiveness.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment
Pleural mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment is about six to eight months. Patients with an early-stage diagnosis may live for roughly two years without treatment.
Peritoneal mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment is approximately six months. This variant responds well to treatment, but cancer progresses fast without therapy.
Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy is an option for some peritoneal patients. Also known as HIPEC, this procedure has a 50% chance of extending survival longer than five years.
Consider talking with your loved ones to determine the benefits and risks. Electing treatment is your best chance at living longer with cancer.
Best Ways to Improve Life Expectancy with Mesothelioma
A mesothelioma diagnosis is challenging. You can take steps to improve your health and extend your life expectancy. Specialized care is available at top treatment centers.
- Work with a Mesothelioma Specialist: Doctors who specialize in mesothelioma include oncologists, surgeons and others who offer the latest and best treatments at the country’s top treatment and research centers.
- Increase Activity Level & Fitness: “Performance status” refers to a patient’s activity level and general fitness. It significantly affects life expectancy and the ability to withstand and recover from aggressive cancer treatments.
- Maintain a Healthy Diet: Cancer patients require adequate nutrition to recover from treatments and maintain immune function. An appropriate mesothelioma diet provides the protein and calories needed to prevent weight loss.
- Consider Integrative Medicine: Complementary or integrative medicine refers to nonmedical approaches combined with proven cancer treatment. Examples include acupuncture, meditation and yoga, which may reduce stress and pain.
Consult your doctor before starting any new diet, exercise or therapy. Some supplements can cause harmful effects with cancer drugs.
Common Questions About Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
- What is the life expectancy for a mesothelioma patient?
The life expectancy for mesothelioma is approximately 12 months for all types. With surgery, pleural mesothelioma patients live an average of three years. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients live an average of five years.
- What is the longest someone has lived with mesothelioma?
Some mesothelioma patients have lived more than 10 years after their diagnosis, such as Michelle M., who was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2002 at age 44. Tamron Little, a contributing writer for The Mesothelioma Center, has survived 15 years with peritoneal mesothelioma.
Tim C. was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2002 and underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He’s lived 10 years since then and attributes his success to his family.
- Which type of mesothelioma has the longest life expectancy?
Peritoneal mesothelioma has the longest life expectancy due to the effectiveness of the heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy procedure performed alongside surgery. A 2018 study reported that median disease-free survival with HIPEC was almost five years, and median overall survival was more than eight years
- What happens in the final stages of mesothelioma?
In end-stage mesothelioma, symptoms are more severe and treatment is limited. Stage 3 mesothelioma patients have trouble breathing and experience chest pain, weight loss and fever. Because of significant tumor involvement, patients are often ineligible for surgery and receive chemotherapy to slow tumor growth.
Stage 4 mesothelioma, the final stage, involves tumors on the liver, spine, brain, kidneys or other organs. Symptoms are extreme, and respiratory or cardiac failure is the leading cause of death. Chemotherapy can improve symptoms and extend life expectancy by several months. Palliative care in the end stage reduces pain and other symptoms for comfort.