7 Min Read
Last Updated: 05/20/2024
Fact Checked

Written by Dr. Daniel Landau | Medically Reviewed By Dr. Jacques Fontaine | Edited By Walter Pacheco

What Is the Prognosis for Mesothelioma?

The prognosis for mesothelioma, or the likely course of the disease, is generally unfavorable. However, while most patients live between 12 and 21 months with treatment, patients have defied the odds and lived more than 10 years. A mesothelioma prognosis is both individual and based on the outcomes of other patients.

Survival rate, life expectancy and mortality statistics play a role in prognosis, but every mesothelioma survivor is unique. According to the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program’s latest available data as of 2019 for patients across all demographics and mesothelioma types, the 5-year relative survival rate is nearly 14%.

Mesothelioma Prognosis Statistics
  • Survival Rates: The 5-year relative mesothelioma survival rate is 9% for advanced stages and 23% for early-stage cases according to SEER’s latest data.
  • Life Expectancy: Mesothelioma can shorten a patient’s life expectancy by a median of 10.6 years.
  • Mortality Rate: The mesothelioma mortality rate is around 8 deaths per million people.

Factors affecting a malignant mesothelioma prognosis include the stage of the disease, the patient’s overall health and the type of mesothelioma treatments received. Doctors will likely talk to their patients about other factors that are related to their mesothelioma prognosis.

Ongoing cancer treatment can help keep cancer under control. Some patients live more than a decade after therapy.

What Factors Can Affect Your Mesothelioma Prognosis?

The most important factors that can affect a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis are the origin site or where tumors began developing, the cell type of the mesothelioma tumors and the cancer stage when diagnosing mesothelioma. General health and other personal factors also play a role in the response to treatment.

The location and size of tumors affects the kinds of treatments a patient qualifies for. The cancer stage impacts prognosis because treatment becomes less effective in later stages.

Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Prognosis
  • Cancer Stage: Treatment becomes less effective in later stages. Stage 1 patients who undergo surgery live about 22.2 months, while stage 4 mesothelioma patients live about 14.9 months.
  • Patient Health and Demographics: Younger people typically are more likely to be eligible for more aggressive treatment options. Women with mesothelioma tend to live longer than men and 18.6% of Black patients lived 5 years vs. 9.4% of white patients.
  • Tumor Cell Type: Some types of mesothelioma cells are more resistant to treatment, impacting prognosis. A 2020 Oncology Reports study found epithelial cells had a better prognosis.
  • Tumor Location and Size: About 10% of pleural mesothelioma patients and 65% of peritoneal mesothelioma patients live at least 5 years. Roughly 50% of pericardial patients live 6 months. Testicular mesothelioma patients live around 2 years, but some live more than 10.

In general, patients don’t have much control over most of these prognostic factors. You can’t control your age or tumor cell type, but you can improve your overall health and undergo cancer treatment to positively influence your prognosis. 

Why Is Tumor Progression Such an Important Factor in Determining Prognosis?

“The major or No. 1 factor that influences a patients’ prognosis is the amount of tumor that is visible at the time of diagnosis,” Dr. David Sugarbaker, who was a pioneer in mesothelioma treatment, had explained to The Mesothelioma Center. “Tumor volume has been shown in several studies to determine more strongly than any other type of test to determine what the long-term survival is.”

Dr. Sugarbaker had also explained: “There are other ways to do it to determine prognosis. All of which are valid. But putting that information together with how much tumor is present at the time of diagnosis gives us a better and better overall vision, if you will, of how the patient’s going to do with treatment.”

Top Ways to Improve Your Mesothelioma Prognosis

You can choose to be proactive and take steps to improve your prognosis. Although you can’t change your age or cancer stage, you can choose to seek treatment and make healthy lifestyle choices.

Long-term survivors often undergo procedures like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and Tumor Treating Fields. Surgery allows some patients to live for years, but only 20% of patients qualify for it. About 50% of the patients who undergo chemotherapy see tumor shrinkage. Adding targeted therapy or Tumor Treating Fields may improve life span from 12 to 18 months.

Improving Your Mesothelioma Prognosis
  • Find a Mesothelioma Specialist: Working with a specialist who understands the most effective treatment options for your specific diagnosis offers the best chance of improving your prognosis.
  • Join a Support Group: Participating in support groups can help reduce anxiety, emotional distress, fatigue and pain.
  • Make Healthier Lifestyle Choices: Gentle exercise and a balanced diet can ease side effects and improve cancer symptoms.
  • Seek a Clinical Trial: Clinical trials can improve prognosis through experimental drugs. Some patients respond better to medicines still under investigation.

Patients can also use relaxation techniques. These can include guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation, which may help patients better cope with their diagnosis.

Gene Hartline headshot

I would tell anyone who gets diagnosed with this disease, don’t just take the first advice you get and give up. Look around and see what is out there.

Survivors Who Surpassed Their Malignant Mesothelioma Prognosis

Although recurrence is common, people diagnosed with mesothelioma are overcoming their initial prognoses. Some survivors live years or even a decade or more past their initial malignant mesothelioma prognosis. They often credit aggressive cancer treatment for improving their prognosis. 

Remission is having no signs or symptoms of active cancer. Partial remission is a 50% reduction in tumor size and full remission is complete tumor disappearance. 

Complete remission is rare with mesothelioma. Partial remission is more common. Patients may live for years in partial remission.

Stories from Mesothelioma Survivors

Mesothelioma survivors share stories of how they improved their prognosis through their medical teams, family support, treatment procedures and other factors.

Chris Gibney
Pleural mesothelioma survivor

Diagnosed in 2005, Chris Gibney far surpassed his pleural mesothelioma diagnosis. In March 2017, he and his wife welcomed a group of exchange students from Germany to their home. Gibney credits his excellent medical team and a family support group for surviving more than a decade past his prognosis.

Beth Mixon
Peritoneal mesothelioma survivor

At the time of Beth Mixon’s peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosis in 2000, the majority of patients lived less than two years after treatment. Despite a grim prognosis, Mixon is still going strong 17 years after an aggressive cytoreductive surgery.

Kasie Coleman
Peritoneal mesothelioma survivor

Diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2010, Kasie Coleman underwent several cycles of chemotherapy and HIPEC treatments. Her cancer went into remission in 2012.

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Prognosis

What is the prognosis for malignant mesothelioma?

The prognosis for malignant mesothelioma is poor. However, emerging treatments and mesothelioma awareness are improving a mesothelioma patient’s prognosis.

Is mesothelioma always terminal?

While mesothelioma is considered terminal, it’s not always fatal. Patients have outlived their prognosis by more than a decade.

How long can you live with mesothelioma?

Most people with mesothelioma live between 4 and 18 months, but some people have lived longer than 10 years with this type of cancer.

Is there a cure for mesothelioma?

It’s not possible to cure mesothelioma, but doctors use treatments to control tumor growth and cancer symptoms.

How can a mesothelioma specialist improve my prognosis?

Mesothelioma specialists have spent years learning about mesothelioma treatment, and they know how to treat this cancer better than general oncologists. Working with a specialist is the best way to improve your prognosis.

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