Each patient is unique. Because every patient has a different medical history, age and diagnosis, a doctor’s prognosis needs to be based on an individual evaluation.
What’s the Survival Rate for Mesothelioma?
On average, a patient with mesothelioma survives for about one year past their diagnosis. Five-year survival rates, a standard measurement in cancer research, is between five and 10 percent for mesothelioma, according to the American Cancer Society, which also emphasizes that patients diagnosed at a younger age live longer.
Younger patients in their 50′s (considered young for this disease) are often strong enough to benefit from surgery and/or chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In fact, patients under 55 are twice as likely to live for several years after their diagnosis.
Prognosis for each Stage
Like any serious disease, an early diagnosis and overall patient health are very important factors. The type of mesothelioma you have, your sex, and age, even the cell structure in the cancer cells can also have an impact.
Stage 1 is considered localized and is divided into two stages, 1A and 1B, according to Cancer.gov:
- Stage 1A is found in one side of the chest wall lining and may also be found in the chest cavity between the lungs and/or the lining that covers the diaphragm. Cancer has not spread to the lining that covers the lung.
- Stage 1B is found in one side of the chest wall lining and the lining that covers the lung. Cancer may also be found in the lining of the chest cavity between the lungs and/or the lining that covers the diaphragm.
Cancer is found in one side of the chest, in the the lining of the chest cavity between the lungs, the lining that covers the diaphragm, and the lining that covers the lung. Cancer has spread into one or both of the diaphragm muscle and lung.
Prognosis for Early Diagnosis
Early diagnosis (Stages 1 and 2) gives your doctors a much better chance to successfully treat the disease. The American Cancer Society reports that the median (mid-range) survival for patients in the early stages of pleural mesothelioma (which makes up 75 percent of all cases) is for 21 months after their diagnosis. Historically, half the patients lived longer than 21 months, and half lived for less.
Early diagnosis means getting treated sooner. People with a history of exposure to asbestos should be looking for possible symptoms. They are similar to bad colds, flu, and stomach viruses, like coughing up blood, changes in bowel movements, and constantly feeling tired or short of breath. If these symptoms don’t go away after a few days, see your doctor.
There are two alternatives for Stage 3:
- Cancer is found in one side of the chest in the lining of the chest wall or it may have spread to the lining of the chest cavity between the lungs; the diaphragm muscle; the lining that covers the lung; the lining that covers the diaphragm; the lung. Cancer has spread to lymph nodes where the lung joins the bronchus, along the trachea and esophagus, between the lung and diaphragm, or below the trachea.
- Cancer is found in one side of the chest in the lining of the chest wall, the lining of the chest cavity between the lungs, the lining that covers the diaphragm, and the lining that covers the lung. Cancer has spread into one or more of the tissue between the ribs and the lining of the chest wall; soft tissues of the chest wall; sac that covers the heart; fat in the cavity between the lungs.
Cancer may have spread to lymph nodes where the lung joins the bronchus, along the trachea and esophagus, between the lung and diaphragm, or below the trachea.
Cancer can’t be removed by surgery and is found in one or both sides of the body. Cancer may have spread to lymph nodes anywhere in the chest or above the collarbone. Cancer has spread in one or more of the following ways:
- Through the diaphragm into the peritoneum (the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the organs in the abdomen)
- Into the sac around the heart or into the heart muscle
- Into the spine
- To the chest wall and may be found in the rib
- To the tissue lining the chest on the opposite side of the body as the tumor
- Into the organs in the center of the chest cavity
- To distant parts of the body such as the brain, spine, thyroid, or prostate
Prognosis for Late Diagnosis
Stages 3 and 4 are comparatively different from one another. For stage III, if a patient responds well to the surgery and post-surgery therapies, they can live longer than the average of one year. Patients who have curative surgery usually live longer than 16 months. Patients with lymph node involvement typically live 13 to 17 months.
Stage 4 median survival is 12 months, but positive responses to treatment can extend survival. The cancer is likely to continue to spread, possibly leading to respiratory failure or heart failure if tumors spread to the heart.
Since mesothelioma is considered heterogenous, survival statistics cannot predict how long someone with mesothelioma will live.
Factors Affecting Prognosis
Health and Age
Overall health and age can influence surviving mesothelioma and any serious disease.
In general, patients who are younger and/or generally healthy are better candidates for surgery and nonsurgical treatments (radiation therapy and drugs).
Women respond better to mesothelioma treatments than men and live longer. Almost half of all women with the disease (regardless of other factors) live for a year after diagnosis and more than 10 percent live for a decade.
The type of mesothelioma you have can also impact surviving the disease. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural and affects organs in the chest. The second-most common type is peritoneal and affects the organs in the abdomen and the digestive system. Mesothelioma Survival rates for both have been pretty similar, but patients with the peritoneal disease have survived longer after their diagnosis.
Peritoneal cancer often shows up as tumors. Tumors can cause severe and painful symptoms that send patients to their doctors for an early diagnosis. They are also easier to remove through surgery. Pleural mesothelioma attacks the linings around the chest organs and is more difficult to remove through surgery.
A third kind of mesothelioma is pericardial, which affects the lining around the heart. Only one percent of all mesothelioma patients have this disease, which is also most difficult to diagnose and less likely to show early symptoms to alert patients.
Mesothelioma research shows that the type of cancer cells also influence patient results. Epithelial cells, which protect and surround organs, form tumors and are easier to identify and remove with surgery.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is more aggressive than epithelial and patients do not respond as well to treatment.
Biphasic cells are found in between 20 to 35 percent of all mesothelioma patients. They often have sarcomatoid and epithelial cells in them, which greatly influences treatment success, and the affected organs. Biphasic mesothelioma is also more difficult to treat than epithelial cells.
What Does Recent Research Say?
Current research focuses on an experimental drug called Trememlimumab, which has been shown to stop mesothelioma from spreading. In one study in Australia that involved patients who were too sick for surgery, the drug stopped the disease for 18 months.
Mayo Clinic and The University of Pennsylvania
Other research follows cutting-edge cancer research. In recent years, scientists have been creating viruses (good ones!) that attack cancer cells or can be used as a vaccine against cancer. (You may know about a vaccine given to teenagers to prevent ovarian cancer.) The Mayo Clinic, a leading medical research and treatment center, is studying this vaccine approach. The University of Pennsylvania is studying vaccines and virus research. Sloan Kettering in New York is also experimenting with a small pox vaccine.
Other research is looking at drugs under development that don’t even have names yet and seeing how they work with standard cancer drugs like Cisplatin, and with radiation treatment. Visit CenterWatch to look at clinical trials and see if you want to apply to participate in treatment trials.
How Can I Manage My Prognosis?
As a patient, you have every right to ask questions, write things down, and seek out more information—use reliable sources like a patient advocate. Many are nurses or have medical or healthcare backgrounds and understand a lot of the technical terms doctors may not explain very well. They can help you find resources and supports in your community that you might not be aware of.
Look for new symptoms and report them to your doctor. They may indicate a change in the disease or a side effect of the treatment you are taking.
Be easy on yourself. You will have good days and not-so-good days. Give yourself plenty of rest, but try to move around on the days you feel good. Find a support group, either in person or online, so that you can talk about what’s going on with people going through similar experiences.
Mesothelioma Prognosis After Chemotherapy, Radiation, and Surgery
The range of survival varies and is wide. Mesothelioma survival rates for people diagnosed and treated in Stages 1 and 2 have an increased rate of up to 50 percent after 2 years, according to CancerResearchUK.org.