What Is the Survival Rate for Mesothelioma?

A mesothelioma survival rate is the percentage of patients alive a certain number of years after their diagnosis. The 5-year pleural mesothelioma survival rate is 9.6%, and the 5-year survival rate for peritoneal mesothelioma is 65%.

Graphic showing 5-year survival rates for pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma with and without treatment.
Survival rate increases dramatically with treatment for both pleural and peritoneal types. The most successful mesothelioma treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy.

The National Cancer Institute has a program that publishes mesothelioma survival data every few years. It is the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, also known as SEER.

Survival rate differs from life expectancy. Life expectancy is the average time a person may live based on birth year, current age, gender and other factors.

Between 73% and 92% of pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma patients live at least one year. Five times more peritoneal patients achieve five-year survival than pleural patients. These stats come from a 2015 meta-study that analyzed 20 years of data.

Mesothelioma survival rates vary depending on cell type, stage, patient age and gender. A May 2022 study shows the annual number of mesothelioma deaths increased by 25%, from 489 in 1999 to 614 in 2020. The yearly age-adjusted death rate for women declined from 4.83 per 1 million in 1999 to 4.15 in 2020.

How Are Mesothelioma Survival Rates Used?

Doctors and researchers use asbestos cancer survival rates to apply general statistics to a group of people. This data estimates which treatment may be most effective for specific patient populations. Mesothelioma survival statistics can’t predict every person’s prognosis.

Survival rates can sometimes be confusing and challenging to know when to use. A 5-year mesothelioma survival rate doesn’t mean researchers counted every person. It’s usually an estimate, including people whose cancer never came back and those living with active cancer. 

Understanding Your Prognosis

Prognosis refers to the likelihood of successful treatment outcomes and the outlook for a patient’s health. Survival rates and life expectancy inform health care providers about a potential prognosis.

For example, a woman aged 65 diagnosed with mesothelioma has a 13.6% 5-year mesothelioma survival rate. Her doctor will determine whether her prognosis is favorable or poor based on the survival rate, her cancer stage and overall life expectancy.  

Developing a Treatment Plan

The survival rate is one piece of the puzzle when a doctor determines the best mesothelioma treatment for a patient. Treatment statistics play a role, and they involve data from years of research. 

The 5-year relative survival rate for lung cancer is 19%. About 56% of patients with stage I and II non-small cell lung cancer undergo surgery, while 63% of stage III patients receive chemotherapy. These statistics help determine if surgery or chemotherapy may be more appropriate for each patient. 

Individuals and Survival Rate Data

Depending on the course of treatment you choose and your circumstances, you may live longer than the survival rates suggest. Cancer survival rates don’t take into consideration recent advances in medicine.

Statistics may be a source of comfort for some people but confusing or frightening for others. But, survival rates only consider people diagnosed in the past. Those diagnosed today may have more available treatment options and a better prognosis.

Patients may wish to focus on their treatment plan and let their doctor provide more personalized information. Advances in treatment help some patients live beyond average survival rates.

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Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Several factors affect how long a person will live after a mesothelioma diagnosis. These include a person’s general health, tumor location and the mesothelioma cell type.

Females and younger patients tend to live longer. As do patients with peritoneal tumors, early-stage disease, epithelioid cells and multimodal therapy.

Tumor Location

Peritoneal mesothelioma survival rates are significantly better than rates for pleural disease. Almost two-thirds of all peritoneal mesothelioma patients, 65%, survive for five years or more, while the same is true for only 9.6% of pleural patients. 

Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates
Year(s) Pleural Peritoneal
1 year 42.4% 92%
3 years 15.5% 74%
5 years 9.6% 65%
10 years 5.4% 39%

Eligible patients with asbestos-related cancer in the peritoneum live between 40 months and 92 months with HIPEC surgery.  

Gender

Even though men make up most cases, women with mesothelioma appear to survive longer than men regardless of age, cancer stage, race or type of treatment. The 5-year relative survival rate for men with pleural mesothelioma is 7.3% compared to 16.4% for women. 

Most asbestos exposures occur in the workplace. Industrial jobs traditionally held by men present the highest risk. This helps explain why men account for most cases.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Gender
GENDER 1 YEAR 2 YEARS 3 YEARS 4 YEARS 5 YEARS
Females 48.7% 31.6% 24.2% 19.5% 16.4%
Males 40.3% 20.4% 12.6% 9.5% 7.3%
Source: National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, 2018

There are several possible reasons why women fare better than men. Some researchers believe hormonal differences between sexes could explain improved survival.

Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. This mesothelioma type has better survival than pleural tumors, which are more common among men. This skews the survival rates to favor women living longer on average.

Age

Older mesothelioma patients have lower survival rates, on average, compared with younger patients. More than 65% of patients diagnosed before age 50 live one year. Over 30% of patients 75 or older live the same amount of time.

Patients diagnosed before age 50 have an estimated 30.8% chance of surviving a decade. That drops to 7.2% for patients between 50 and 64. The five-year survival rate for mesothelioma patients diagnosed between the ages of 65 and 74 is 8.5%. That rate falls to 4.1% for people 75 and older at diagnosis.

One-Year Mesothelioma Survival by Age
Age Range 1-Year Survival Rate
< 50 65.6%
50 – 64 54.9%
65 – 74 44.7%
75+ 31.0%
Source: National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, 2018

Younger patients tend to be healthier than older patients, which means they are eligible for more aggressive and effective therapies.

Those who are younger are also less likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as pulmonary disease, diabetes or a history of other cancers. Better general health also allows for enrollment in clinical trials.

Stage of the Disease

The stage of mesothelioma at diagnosis is a strong predictor of overall survival. Early-stage or localized mesothelioma includes stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma. These stages occur before cancer has spread and have the best survival rates. Most cases of pleural mesothelioma are not diagnosed until stage 3 or stage 4.

The SEER program groups cancer survival rates into localized, regional and distant stages. This grouping distills the four pleural mesothelioma stages into three, with localized representing stage 1, regional roughly representing stages 2 and 3, and distant representing stage 4.

5-Year Relative Survival Rates by Stage for Mesothelioma Patients
SEER STAGE PLEURAL MESOTHELIOMA 5-YEAR RELATIVE SURVIVAL RATE PERITONEAL MESOTHELIOMA 5-YEAR RELATIVE SURVIVAL RATE
Localized 23.5% 87%
Regional 15.7% 53%
Distant 7.4% 29%
Source: National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, 2018

An early-stage diagnosis is associated with longer survival times in pleural mesothelioma patients. The median survival is 22.2 months for stage I pleural mesothelioma and 20 months for stage II. Patients diagnosed with late-stage pleural mesothelioma have a median survival of 17.9 months in stage III and 14.9 months in stage IV. 

Early-stage patients who receive prompt treatment experience improved survival. They are more likely to qualify for surgery and other aggressive treatments. More aggressive therapies are associated with better outcomes.

Mesothelioma Cell Type

Mesothelioma cell type, or tumor histology, impacts patient survival. This cancer has three primary cell types: epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic.

The most common cell type is epithelioid, which is also the least aggressive. It responds best to treatment. Median survival for patients with this cell type is 12 to 24 months. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the most aggressive cell type. Patients with this diagnosis have a median survival of six to eight months.

Mesothelioma 5-Year Survival Rate by Cell Type
PREDOMINANT CELL TYPE MESOTHELIOMA RELATIVE 5-YEAR SURVIVAL RATE
Epithelial 21%
Sarcomatoid 5%
Biphasic 20%

Biphasic tumors have epithelioid and sarcomatoid features. More epithelial cells mean a better prognosis for mesothelioma patients. If the cancer is primarily sarcomatoid cells, life expectancy is decreased. Patients with a biphasic cell diagnosis have a median survival of around 13 months.

Overall Health and Genetics

Survival rates are lower among mesothelioma patients with a history of smoking than for nonsmokers. Other lifestyle factors, such as heavy alcohol use or poor diet, may lower survival rates. Genes and family history also play a role. Over 90% of mesothelioma cases occur in white men, but Black patients have a nearly 7% better 5-year survival rate.  

Researchers have found a correlation between the genetic biomarker BRCA1-associated protein-1, known as BAP1, and longer mesothelioma survival times. Doctors can screen for this gene and determine a treatment course based on the presence of BAP1 epithelial or biphasic mesothelioma. 

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How to Improve Mesothelioma Survival

Many long-term mesothelioma survivors attribute their success living with the disease to seeking multidisciplinary care or clinical trials from a cancer specialist. Other survivors claim lifestyle changes such as exercise or nutritional improvements helped them after their diagnosis.

The context behind pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma survival rates is significant. Disease-free survival is the time after a curative treatment before signs of cancer appear, and progression-free survival measures the time before existing cancer grows or returns. 

However, patients should avoid measuring their quality of life by mesothelioma survival statistics alone. A 5-year survival rate does not describe how cancer symptoms may impact your quality of life. 

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Common Questions About Mesothelioma Survival Rates

What is the survival rate of mesothelioma?

The five-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is approximately 10%. The five-year survival rate for peritoneal mesothelioma is 65%. The survival rate for mesothelioma is often lower than other forms of cancer, including lung cancer (18.6%), breast cancer (89.6%) and prostate cancer (98.2%).

Is mesothelioma always fatal?

Malignant mesothelioma is considered an aggressive and fatal disease. Most mesothelioma patients only survive approximately 12 months after diagnosis. There is no cure for this cancer, but with treatment, patients have extended their life expectancies well beyond their initial prognosis.

What is the difference between a mesothelioma survival rate and mortality rate?

Survival rates refer to the percentage of cancer patients who live a certain number of years after their diagnosis. For example, 23% of pleural mesothelioma patients live for three years or more. The mesothelioma mortality rate is the number of deaths within specific geographical locations and groups of people. For example, in 2015, there were 2,597 mesothelioma deaths in the United States.

How does the survival rate of mesothelioma compare to lung cancer?

The five-year survival rate for mesothelioma patients is approximately 12%. Comparatively, about 18% of lung cancer patients survive more than five years after diagnosis.

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