Reading Time: 13 mins
Last Edited On: 04/23/2024

Written by Dr. Daniel LandauEdited By Walter PachecoMedically Reviewed By Dr. Jacques Fontaine

Key Facts About Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
  • After being diagnosed, most pleural patients have a life expectancy of 1-4 years.
  • Treatment for pleural mesothelioma can more than double life expectancy.
  • Pleural mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment is about 6 to 8 months.
  • After a HIPEC procedure, 50% of peritoneal patients live more than 5 years.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment is about 6 months.
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What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma Patients?

Mesothelioma life expectancy ranges from 12 to 21 months with treatment. Life expectancy without treatment is typically 6 to 8 months for mesothelioma patients. Life expectancy refers to the expected survival time following diagnosis. As registered nurse and Patient Advocate Karen Selby told The Mesothelioma Center, “Survival statistics are general estimates.”

Pleural mesothelioma patients undergoing aggressive therapy may have a longer asbestos cancer life expectancy. Studies show that 9.6% of pleural mesothelioma patients undergoing treatment survive for 5 years or more. Without treatment, survival beyond 6 months is rare.

When patients or their loved ones ask, I share that everyone is different and nobody can tell a new patient their life expectancy after just being diagnosed. I explain that mesothelioma is no longer a death sentence.

You can improve your mesothelioma life expectancy, prognosis and survival rate in many ways. Understanding mesothelioma life expectancy can help guide you and your loved ones through your cancer journey.

As Karen Selby acknowledged, oncologists often find it difficult to provide definitive numbers or statistics regarding each patient’s life expectancy. Many factors determine each patient’s potential pleural mesothelioma life expectancy.

What Factors Affect a Mesothelioma Patient’s Life Expectancy?

Cancer type, age and health are critical factors in a patient’s mesothelioma life expectancy. Genetics, cell type, stage and gender also play a role. Managing coexisting conditions and improving overall health can help extend life expectancy. 

While many factors may be out of your control, others, such as lifestyle habits and treatment options, are within your control. The combination of multiple factors in each patient’s journey can influence whether someone exceeds the typical life expectancy.

When we talk about the life expectancy for a mesothelioma patient, we tend to talk about numbers. But people are people and an individual human being, not numbers and not data.

Many patients with an early diagnosis are asymptomatic and have no symptoms. Those who receive an early diagnosis also often have a higher life expectancy. For this reason, providers should monitor those with pleural effusion and a history of asbestos exposure more closely, even if the effusion is minor or resolves spontaneously. 

If you’ve had asbestos exposure in the past, inform your provider about your history and any new or worsening symptoms. Closely watching patients with a history of asbestos exposure leads to more individuals receiving an earlier diagnosis and having a longer life expectancy.

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Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Based on Tumor Location

Life expectancy can vary based on where tumors form in the body. Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma in the abdomen often live longer than patients with pleural tumors in the chest.

Tumor Location and Life Expectancy
  • People with pleural mesothelioma tumors in the protective lining of the chest and outer lungs live an average of 3 years with surgery.
  • Peritoneal patients have mesothelioma in the abdomen. They have a life expectancy of about 12 months with chemotherapy.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma occurs in the protective heart sac. Patients with this condition have an average life expectancy of 3 to 10 months.
  • Life expectancy for testicular mesothelioma is between 20 months and two years.

Tumor location also influences symptoms and complications. Patients with tumors in the chest are more likely to experience respiratory and cardiac issues, such as shortness of breath or abnormal heart rate. Peritoneal tumors in the abdomen can cause digestive problems and organ failure in sensitive organs such as the kidneys and liver.

Roughly 3 in 4 pleural patients live longer than one year after a mesothelioma diagnosis. About 50% of peritoneal mesothelioma patients live 5 years or more with aggressive treatments such as surgery.

The average mesothelioma life expectancy is 12 to 21 months. Here I am, 14 years later. It’s very rare for a peritoneal mesothelioma patient to live this long.

Tamron Little Mesothelioma Survivor

How Cancer Stage Impacts Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The stage of mesothelioma is a vital factor because earlier stages lead to a longer life expectancy. Doctors measure stages from 1 to 4 to describe the extent of metastasis or tumor spread. Stage 4 is the most advanced and final phase. Life expectancy for stage 4 mesothelioma is 12 months with treatment.

Bar graph showing mesothelioma life expectancy by stage. Life expectancy diagnosed at stage is 21 months, 19 months at stage 2, 16 months at stage 3 and 12 months at stage 4.

Stages 1 and 2 are early stages. Patients with early-stage mesothelioma tend to live for 19 to 21 months. Late-stage mesothelioma involves stages 3 and 4. These patients have a life expectancy of 12 to 16 months. If the cancer spread is not significant, you may be able to consider surgery.

Mesothelioma Cell Type and Life Expectancy

The type of cells within tumors influence which treatments are most effective. Life expectancy is higher for patients with epithelial tumor cells. Pleural patients with the epithelial cell type have a life expectancy of 14.4 months. Peritoneal tumors with epithelial cells increase life expectancy to 51.5 months.

Mesothelioma survival rate in months by cell type.

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells are more aggressive and resistant to treatment. The life expectancy for pleural patients with these cells is 5.3 months and 10.5 months for peritoneal patients. The biphasic type is a mixture of epithelial and sarcomatoid cells, leading to a life expectancy of 9.5 months for pleural and 10.5 months for peritoneal.

Role of Age in Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Younger people tend to have a longer mesothelioma life expectancy than older patients. Those diagnosed at a younger age are often healthier and eligible for more treatments and clinical trials.

Age-Specific Statistics on Life Expectancy
  • Pleural mesothelioma patients at age 40 may expect to live between 4 to 9 years.
  • At age 80, life expectancy is between 1 to 3 years.

Life expectancy improves the longer you survive with mesothelioma. Someone who is younger or has already lived several years with asbestos-related cancer is likely to live longer than an older person with a new diagnosis. 

A 45-year-old who has lived five years with pleural mesothelioma has a life expectancy of 11 to 16 years. At age 85, mesothelioma life expectancy is 6 to 9 years.

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Doug Jackson Mesothelioma Survivor

Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor Defies the Odds

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In December 2016, Doug Jackson was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, and given a prognosis of just one year. By May 2017, he courageously underwent pleurectomy and decortication surgery at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Doug’s surgery and follow-up treatments were successful, and he now passionately cares for his family ranch in Wyoming.

Read Doug’s Story

Gender Differences in Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Men traditionally have held more blue-collar jobs with a higher risk of asbestos exposure. Roughly 50% of men survive mesothelioma for 5 or more years.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy and Gender

  • Women with epithelial mesothelioma live longer than men with the same cell type.
  • An 80-year-old woman with pleural mesothelioma has a life expectancy of 2 to 3 years.
  • Life expectancy for a man at age 80 with the same diagnosis is 1 to 2 years.

More than 75% of women survive peritoneal mesothelioma for at least 5 years. They’re also nearly four times less likely to develop mesothelioma than men. Women often receive their diagnosis at a younger age and are more likely to have epithelial cell type, which is more responsive to treatment. 

Overall Health Can Improve Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

General health issues like chronic illnesses can decrease life expectancy. Chronic illnesses can include heart disease, COPD, obesity and diabetes. Although smoking doesn’t cause mesothelioma like asbestos exposure, it can significantly decrease life expectancy for those with asbestos-related cancer.

Wellness and Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
  • About 20% of mesothelioma patients who smoke live longer than 1 year.
  • Of non-smoking mesothelioma patients, 20% live for 2 years or more.
  • Regular exercise, a healthy diet and sufficient sleep can improve overall health.

The combination of smoking and asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer. Studies show that when asbestos exposure is combined with smoking, the lung cancer death rate is 28 times higher than average.

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How Does Treatment Affect Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?

Treatment can extend life expectancy several years for most patients. Stage 4 mesothelioma life expectancy is about 1 year with treatment. Most mesothelioma patients receive systemic therapy such as chemotherapy. 

A study from The Mesothelioma Center found that the most common medications respondents had taken were the chemo drugs Alimta (pemetrexed) at 30% and cisplatin at 29%. About 33% of mesothelioma patients who experienced remission received these drugs.

Without treatment, the average pleural mesothelioma life expectancy is 7 months. An early diagnosis allows for aggressive and specialized therapies. These options provide the most benefit.

“We’re doing lung-sparing surgery more and finding patients can tolerate additional treatments better. Patients are surviving longer with mesothelioma even if it recurs or progresses,” Dr. Andrea Wolf told The Mesothelioma Center.

Treatment Options That Improve Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy are late-stage treatment options that improve life expectancy. Surgery isn’t a standard option for those with late-stage disease because of higher risks. Patients with an early-stage diagnosis tend to be eligible for a broader range of therapies.

Palliative care can help ease symptoms such as pain and other discomfort. Most palliative options are less-invasive forms of traditional therapy, such as chemotherapy or radiation. When started alongside conventional treatment, palliative care may help increase life expectancy. 

Mesothelioma Treatments and Life Expectancy
  • Chemotherapy: Alimta (pemetrexed) and cisplatin chemotherapy improve life expectancy more than 100% for some. Chemo is the primary treatment for mesothelioma.
  • Clinical Research: Newer drugs and procedures are used. Some clinical trials use the immune system or genes in your DNA to treat cancer.
  • Immunotherapy: Checkpoint inhibitor drugs can improve mesothelioma life expectancy about 30%. Immunotherapy drugs use immune system cells to fight cancer.
  • Radiation: Combined with chemotherapy, it can improve asbestos cancer life expectancy about 40%. Radiotherapy is a practical part of a multimodal treatment plan.
  • Surgery:HIPEC surgery in peritoneal patients may boost life expectancy 37%. Surgical procedures can improve pleural mesothelioma life expectancy more than 45%.
  • TTFields: In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Tumor Treating Fields for mesothelioma. This at-home treatment can extend life expectancy almost 50%.

Survivor Jerry Lampe has lived more than 40 years since his peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosis. Initially told he had 6 to 12 months to live, Lampe found immunotherapy worked for him.

“I say my prayer of thanks for the privilege of another day,” Lampe told The Mesothelioma Center. “It’s my way of not forgetting reality, but I often ask myself why I’m still alive.”

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment

With any diagnosis, cancer can progress fast without therapy. Pleural mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment is about 6 to 8 months. Peritoneal mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment is about 6 months.

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Emily Ward Mesothelioma Survivor

Why I Decided to Stop Mesothelioma Treatment

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One notion has remained true throughout my battle with mesothelioma: I will try just about any treatment as long as it doesn’t have a lasting, negative impact on my quality of life. That approach lasted nearly 7 1/2 years. But in late March, my options ran out. The toll my most recent chemotherapy regimen took on my body was too much to bear.

Read Emily’s Story

Some patients feel uncomfortable with cancer treatment. Deciding if the benefits outweigh the risks of treatment is a personal decision. Consider discussing the benefits and risks with your loved ones and physician. Electing treatment is your best chance at living longer with asbestos-related cancer.

How Can I Improve My Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?

Working with a specialist and maintaining fitness can improve your health and extend your life expectancy. You and your family have access to many resources. Consult your doctor before starting any new diet, exercise or therapy. Some supplements can cause harmful effects with cancer drugs.

5 Tips to Improve Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
  1. Consider Integrative Medicine. Complementary or integrative therapy examples include acupuncture or yoga. Along with proven cancer therapy, it may help reduce stress and pain.
  2. Eat Right. Cancer patients need adequate protein and calories to recover from treatments. A mesothelioma diet can prevent weight loss and help maintain immune function.
  3. Find a Mesothelioma Specialist. Mesothelioma doctors include oncologists, surgeons and others. They offer the latest and best therapies at top research and treatment centers.
  4. Increase Activity Level. “Performance status” refers to activity level and general fitness. It affects life expectancy and the ability to recover from aggressive cancer treatments.
  5. Stop Smoking. Smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases the risk of developing lung cancer and also decreases mesothelioma life expectancy.

Life expectancy information can be very personal. Remember that support is available. A mesothelioma diagnosis is challenging, but you don’t have to cope with the stress alone. The range of emotions and stress during cancer treatment can be overwhelming. Reaching out for mental health support can help you cope with a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

What is the longest someone has lived with mesothelioma?

Jerry Lampe has lived more than 40 years with peritoneal mesothelioma, longer than any known survivor. Some mesothelioma patients live more than 10 years after their diagnosis. 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. He underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He’s lived more than 20 years since then and attributes his success to the support of his family.

Which type of mesothelioma has the longest life expectancy?

Peritoneal mesothelioma has the longest life expectancy. This is due to the effectiveness of the heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy procedure. A 2018 study reported that median disease-free survival with HIPEC was almost five years. The median overall survival was more than eight years.

Does mesothelioma have the shortest life expectancy compared to other cancers?

Yes. The cancers with the shortest 5-year survival estimates are mesothelioma (7.2%), pancreatic cancer (7.3%) and brain cancer (12.8%). The highest 5-year survival estimates are seen in patients with testicular cancer (97%), skin melanoma (92.3%) and prostate cancer (88%).

Will remission extend the life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient?

Remission does not necessarily increase mesothelioma life expectancy. A patient in remission has limited symptoms with no noticeable signs of cancer. Tumor cells may still be present and recurrence is possible. Mesothelioma can progress rapidly, but a long remission often indicates successful treatment.

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