Mesothelioma Prognosis

Mesothelioma prognosis describes a patient’s predicted life expectancy and the projected course of their cancer. The median overall life expectancy of mesothelioma patients is 15 months, with about 10% of patients surviving 5 years after diagnosis. The most effective way to improve your mesothelioma prognosis is through treatment such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Fact-Checked and Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mark Levin

Average Mesothelioma Prognosis

Mesothelioma prognosis is the expected progression and outcome of the cancer. Your doctor will determine your prognosis based on your cancer’s location, cell type, stage, and other factors, such as your overall health.

The average mesothelioma prognosis is 12-21 months with treatment.

However, each case of mesothelioma is unique and has a different outcome. Some mesothelioma patients live 5 years or longer after their initial diagnosis, and some can become long-term survivors who live for decades.

No matter what your prognosis is, you should work with a mesothelioma doctor to develop your own personalized treatment plan.

Before your appointment, download our Free Questions to Ask Your Doctor Checklist to ensure you get the answers you need on mesothelioma prognosis and treatment.

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Improving Your Mesothelioma Prognosis

The prognosis for malignant mesothelioma is generally poor but can be improved by receiving treatment targeted to your specific diagnosis.

Healthy lifestyle changes may also help you live longer when combined with mesothelioma treatment.

Improving Mesothelioma Prognosis Through Treatment

Patients who are healthy enough to undergo surgery have a better chance of improving their prognosis for mesothelioma.

For example, nearly 70% of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma who receive cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) live for 5 years after diagnosis.

“Surgery is more likely to have long-term benefits in early-stage cancers, where there’s a better chance that most or all of the cancer can be removed.”

– American Cancer Society

However, some cancer cells may still be left behind after mesothelioma surgery. This can cause the malignant cells to divide and grow. For this reason, many patients will respond best to multimodal therapy, a combination of treatments that may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Patients who aren’t candidates for surgery can receive mesothelioma chemotherapy to shrink their tumors or slow the growth of cancer cells.

Mesothelioma radiation therapy can also be used on its own to shrink tumors and reduce painful symptoms.

As researchers continue to discover new treatment methods, mesothelioma patients can gain access to more effective care that may improve their prognosis. Clinical trials in particular are paving the way toward emerging therapies that may improve survival rates — and potentially offer a cure.

Learn more about clinical trials and other methods for improving prognosis in our Free 2022 Mesothelioma Guide, packed with nearly 100 pages of information to help you fight this disease.

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Improving Mesothelioma Prognosis Through a Healthy Lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may enhance your ability to recover from cancer treatment and improve your overall well-being, which in turn may improve your mesothelioma life expectancy.

Mesothelioma patients may improve their prognosis through:

  • Exercise: Light exercise such as aerobics can improve blood flow, reduce fatigue, and increase appetite.
  • Not smoking: Smoking can make it harder to stay healthy during mesothelioma treatment, tolerate chemotherapy, or undergo life-extending surgery.
  • Proper nutrition: Mesothelioma patients should follow dietary recommendations from their doctor. The nutrients in certain foods can help boost the immune system and can promote healing after treatment.
  • Stress management: Anxiety and stress can negatively affect overall health and recovery. Mesothelioma patients may benefit from relaxing activities such as meditation and yoga.

All of these are important elements of your overall health and may help strengthen your body before, during, and after receiving cancer treatment.

Find more tips on improving your mesothelioma prognosis. Get your Free 2022 Mesothelioma Guide today.

Pleural Mesothelioma Prognosis

Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura), is the most common type of this cancer and has the poorest prognosis.

Pleural mesothelioma prognosis primarily depends on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis. Doctors usually determine the stage of malignant pleural mesothelioma by using the tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging system.

TNM uses four stages to describe how far a patient’s cancer has spread. In general, your prognosis will be better the earlier you are diagnosed.

Mesothelioma StageLife Expectancy*2-Year Survival Rate
Stage 121 months45%
Stage 219 months41%
Stage 316 months37%
Stage 412 months26%

Patients with early-stage mesothelioma (stages 1 and 2) who are in otherwise good health often make excellent surgery candidates, giving them a better prognosis.

Late-stage cancer (stages 3 and 4) that has spread to distant parts of the body may not respond to mesothelioma surgery, contributing to a poorer prognosis for these patients.

Instead, treatment for late-stage mesothelioma focuses on symptom management and improving quality of life. However, every patient is different. Treatment advances are happening all the time — even patients diagnosed in stage 3 or 4 may outlive their prognosis.

Looking for late-stage mesothelioma treatment? Find a specialist in your area who can help improve your prognosis with our Free Doctor Match.

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Peritoneal Mesothelioma Prognosis

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) and has the best prognosis.

The average peritoneal life expectancy is 53 months for patients with epithelioid cell type who receive cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC.

Multimodal treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma may be the most effective way to improve prognosis. In 2022, the Washington Cancer Institute reported that about 80% of patients lived 5 years or more if they received additional chemotherapy over a prolonged period after undergoing cytoreduction with HIPEC.

Peritoneal mesothelioma may have a more favorable prognosis due to:

  • Age and gender: Peritoneal mesothelioma patients tend to be diagnosed at a younger age, which can improve their prognosis. Further, there is a higher proportion of women with peritoneal mesothelioma. Female mesothelioma patients have a better prognosis than men.
  • Cancer progression: Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma progresses at a slower rate than other types and tends to remain in the abdomen instead of spreading to other areas of the body.
  • Tolerance for treatment: Patients may be able to withstand more rigorous treatments in the abdominal area compared to the lungs, resulting in a better prognosis for peritoneal mesothelioma.

Prognosis for Rare Types of Mesothelioma

There are other types of mesothelioma in addition to the more commonly diagnosed pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma.

Pericardial mesothelioma has the worst prognosis of all types of the condition because of its close proximity to the heart. The 2-year survival rate for pericardial mesothelioma patients is just 12.2%.

Although testicular mesothelioma is extremely rare, the survival rate is relatively high if the cancer is caught before it has spread. About 49% of testicular mesothelioma patients can expect to live at least 5 years after diagnosis.

Your prognosis is not set in stone. You can work to improve your prognosis by seeking treatment from an experienced mesothelioma specialist.

Use our Free Doctor Match to find a specialist near you today.

Factors That Affect Mesothelioma Prognosis

One of the most important factors of a mesothelioma prognosis is getting diagnosed and starting treatment as soon as possible.

Other factors that may affect your prognosis include:

  • Age: Younger patients may be able to withstand more rigorous treatment to effectively fight mesothelioma and improve their prognosis.
  • Blood chemistry: Abnormally high levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are linked to reduced mesothelioma survival rates.
  • Cell type: Epithelial cells are the least aggressive type of mesothelioma cells and respond best to treatment. Patients with a biphasic or sarcomatoid cell type may have a worse prognosis.
  • Gender: Women with mesothelioma tend to live longer and respond more positively to treatment than men, according to the National Cancer Institute.
  • Stage at diagnosis: Because they can typically undergo life-extending surgery, early-stage mesothelioma patients often have a much better prognosis than those diagnosed at a later stage.
  • Treatment options: Patients able to undergo aggressive mesothelioma treatment like surgery often have a better prognosis. Surgery may also increase the effectiveness of other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
  • Type of mesothelioma: The type (location) of mesothelioma can impact can impact cancer spread, available treatment options, and other factors that affect prognosis.

Since there are so many factors that can affect the prognosis of mesothelioma, it’s important to see a mesothelioma specialist as soon as possible. Early detection and diagnosis can be critical in accessing treatment that can improve your condition.

Points of Hope: Survivors Who’ve Outlived Their Mesothelioma Prognosis

Some patients far surpassed their doctors’ expectations despite receiving a poor prognosis. A few of these inspiring mesothelioma survivors are highlighted below.

Julie, 15+ Year Survivor

  • Type of mesothelioma: Peritoneal
  • Year diagnosed: 2006
  • Original prognosis: 6-12 months

Ginger, 11+ Year Survivor

  • Type of mesothelioma: Peritoneal
  • Year diagnosed: 2010
  • Original prognosis: 6-12 months

Mike, 9-Year Survivor

  • Type of mesothelioma: Pleural
  • Year diagnosed: 2011 (passed away in 2020)
  • Original prognosis: 6-12 months

Arthur, 3+ Year Survivor

  • Type of mesothelioma: Pleural
  • Year diagnosed: 2018
  • Original prognosis: 6-12 months

These survivors demonstrate the importance of staying hopeful. Specialized treatments — along with healthy lifestyle changes — are helping many mesothelioma patients live longer than ever before.

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Learn More About Improving Your Mesothelioma Prognosis

Although mesothelioma generally has a poor prognosis, it is important to remember every case is unique. Some mesothelioma survivors have lived for several years with their cancer.

Many of the factors that impact a mesothelioma prognosis are not controllable, but there are certain steps that patients can take that may increase their life expectancy.

Get your Free Mesothelioma Guide to learn more about treatments, clinical trials, and other ways to improve your mesothelioma prognosis.

Mesothelioma Prognosis FAQs

How does diagnosis differ from prognosis?

Before a mesothelioma patient can receive their prognosis, they must first be diagnosed. A mesothelioma diagnosis is the identification and confirmation of a patient’s mesothelioma.

A diagnosis usually requires examining a piece of the cancer tissue obtained through a mesothelioma biopsy.

Once a mesothelioma specialist diagnoses a patient with mesothelioma, they assess the patient’s health to determine how serious their cancer is and their chances of survival (prognosis).

Can mesothelioma go into remission?

Possibly, yes. Mesothelioma remission occurs when cancer can no longer be detected in a patient’s body. Mesothelioma is an incredibly aggressive cancer, and even the most thorough surgeries, chemotherapy sessions, and radiation treatments may not eliminate every cancer cell.

Mesothelioma patients who receive early and effective treatment may achieve remission and survive years without any signs of cancer. However, mesothelioma nearly always returns. This is called mesothelioma recurrence.

What is the death rate for mesothelioma?

The mesothelioma death rate, or mortality rate, measures the ratio of deaths to the population of all mesothelioma patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 47,660 malignant mesothelioma deaths were reported between 1999 and 2017.

Mortality rates allow mesothelioma doctors to predict a patient’s prognosis more accurately. Death rates for mesothelioma are expected to drop as researchers continue to find new ways to treat this type of cancer.

What is the difference between mesothelioma life expectancy and survival rates?

Mesothelioma life expectancy is the average number of months that doctors expect a patient to live after diagnosis. Most mesothelioma patients are given a life expectancy of 12-21 months.

Mesothelioma survival rate is the percentage of patients who survive for a specific amount of time. Survival rates are usually calculated in 1-, 3-, and 5-year increments after diagnosis.

The 1- and 5-year survival rates for pleural mesothelioma (all stages) and peritoneal mesothelioma with treatment are shown below.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates

  • 1 year: 82%
  • 5 years: 12%

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates

  • 1 year: 81%
  • 5 years: 47%
Reviewed by:Dr. Mark Levin

Certified Oncologist and Hematologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Mark Levin, MD has over 30 years of experience in academic and community hematology and oncology. In addition to serving as Chief or Director at four different teaching institutions throughout his life, he is also still a practicing clinician, has taught and designed formal education programs, and has authored numerous publications in various fields related to hematology and oncology.

Dr. Mark Levin is an independently paid medical reviewer.

  • Board Certified Oncologist
  • 30+ Years Experience
  • Published Medical Author

Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of passionate health advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. Our team works tirelessly to give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma. Learn more about operating principles and our Editorial Guidelines.

18 References
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  7. Malignant mesothelioma mortality – United States, 1999–2015. (2017, August 01). Retrieved May 27, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6608a3.htm

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  10. Pass H, Giroux D, Kennedy C, Ruffini E, Cangir AK, Rice D, Asamura H, Waller D, Edwards J, Weder W, Hoffmann H, van Meerbeeck JP, Nowak A, Rusch VW; IASLC Staging and Prognostic Factors Committee, Advisory Boards and Participating Institutions. The IASLC Mesothelioma Staging Project: Improving Staging of a Rare Disease Through International Participation. J Thorac Oncol. 2016 Dec;11(12):2082-2088. doi: 10.1016/j.jtho.2016.09.123. Epub 2016 Sep 23. PMID: 27670823

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  13. Shavelle, R., Vavra-Musser, K., Lee, J., & Brooks, J. (2017). Life expectancy in pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5292397/#!po=35.0000

  14. Sugarbaker PH. Long-term Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy for Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma. J Clin Haematol. 2022;3(1):12-23.

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  16. Taioli, Emanuela & Wolf, Andrea & Camacho-Rivera, Marlene & Flores, Raja. (2014). Women With Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Have a Threefold Better Survival Rate Than Men. The Annals of thoracic surgery. 98. 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2014.04.040

  17. University of Maryland Medical Center. (n.d.).Cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC – FAQs. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://www.umms.org/umgccc/cancer-services/cancer-types/gastrointestinal/diagnostic-treatment/peritoneal-surface-malignancies/cytoreductive-surgery-hipec

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