Life Expectancy Factors
Early diagnosis can improve life expectancy; however, the following factors for a mesothelioma diagnosis are all important when assessing life expectancy.
- Age at diagnosis
- Type of mesothelioma
- Smoking or non-smoking patient
- Overall health of patient
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic add quality of life prior to a diagnosis to the list of increased survival. The researchers found that patients who deemed their quality of life highest among other lung cancer patients lived significantly longer. The American Cancer Society encourages cancer survivors to focus on healthy behaviors including exercise, diet, and not smoking to limit the risk of mesothelioma recurrence and for improved quality of life.
Age. The younger the better. Many studies report that younger, fit patients have a higher life expectancy than their older counterparts when diagnosed with cancer. Younger patients are generally healthier overall, which points to encouraging Americans to live a healthy lifestyle in order to combat mesothelioma.
Location of Cancer. The primary types of mesothelioma are pleural, involving the lung, and peritoneal, involving the abdomen. Pleural mesothelioma patients typically have a shorter life expectancy than peritoneal patients. According to statistics, 80 percent of the mesothelioma cases are pleural, with close to 20 percent peritoneal cases. Pericardial, which occurs in the lining around the heart, is extremely rare, representing less than one percent of all mesothelioma cases.
Types of Cells. There are three types of cells that appear in mesothelioma: epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic.
Epithelial cells protect and surround organs. When they are invaded by mesothelioma, they form tumors that can be removed with surgery or treated with radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of the three. Mesothelioma cases often include a malignant epithelial tumor. There are 20 kinds of epithelial mesothelioma cells. Some are associated with a specific type of mesothelioma. Others are found in all forms of the disease.
Sarcomatoid cells are made up of cancerous cells that can include epithelial cells. Sarcomatoid cells are hard to tell apart from healthy tissues. They spread quickly and are the most difficult to treat. There are three kinds of sarcomatoid cells associated with mesothelioma: transitional, lymphohistiocytosis, and desmoplastic. They are found in all three types of mesothelioma.
Biphasic cells are the second most-common found in mesothelioma patients. These cells are most often present in pleural patients. They may include elements of epithelial cells and sarcomatoid cells; for this reason, treatment and patient survival time frames will vary. Treatment is also based on the stage, size and location of the tumor.
Smoking. Unlike many other predominantly pulmonary-related cancers, cigarette smoking has no known causative affect on pleural mesothelioma incidence; however, statistics show that smoking accounts for 90 percent of lung cancer cases and 85 percent of head and neck cancers. Smoking cessation is one of the primary ways to prevent lung disease. The effectiveness of treatment for mesothelioma patients can be complicated if patients continue to smoke.
Overall Health. Patients with few to no additional health complications may have a longer survival than those with other health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Patients with other chronic conditions must carefully monitor their health and medications to prevent complications from arising. When they are then diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important that the medical team and patients work closely together to monitor drug interactions and proper nutrition. The American Cancer Society reports the following median survival time of patients with pleural mesothelioma who were treated with surgery to cure the cancer. The numbers include the relative 5-year survival rate and median survival. The ACS adds that survival times tend to be longer for patients treated with surgery. Patients who are not eligible for surgery often have cancer that has metastasized.
- Stage I – 21 months
- Stage II – 19 months
- Stage III – 16 months
- Stage IV – 12 months