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Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma life expectancy is the estimated amount of time patients can expect to live after a diagnosis. The average life expectancy of mesothelioma is 12-21 months, but this can vary based on the cancer’s location, stage, and other factors. Learn how to increase your mesothelioma life expectancy with treatment and find hope in the stories of long-term survivors.

Medically reviewed by: Mark Levin, MD

Last updated:

What Is the Average Life Expectancy With Mesothelioma?

Average Life Expectancy With and Without Treatment
  • With Treatment: 12-21 months
  • No Treatment: 4-12 months
Source: F1000Research, Cancer Therapy Advisor

The average mesothelioma life expectancy is 12-21 months, according to a report in F1000Research.

Your life expectancy with mesothelioma will vary depending on your overall health, cancer stage, response to treatment, and other factors. Many factors influence life expectancy data, and no two patients’ experiences will be the same. Your life expectancy is not set in stone.

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy can help you live longer and spend more time with the people you love.

Key Facts on Mesothelioma Survival

  • Prognosis refers to the likely course and outcome of an individual patient’s mesothelioma, and it plays a significant role in determining their life expectancy.
  • Survival rate is the percentage of all mesothelioma patients who are still alive after a certain amount of time.
  • Mesothelioma survival rates are usually measured at 1, 3, and 5 years.
  • The 1-year survival rate for mesothelioma is 43.7%, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Video Thumbnail

The average mesothelioma life expectancy is 12-21 months, but it may be possible to live much longer and even become a survivor. Treatments are the best way to improve your life expectancy with mesothelioma. View Transcript.

Duration: 1 min 15 sec

Mesothelioma life expectancy is the amount of time a patient can expect to live after their cancer diagnosis. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma is 12 to 21 months. However, many people live longer depending on factors like their overall health age and how their body responds to treatments. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s crucial to consult with a medical professional to discuss available treatment options that can improve your life expectancy. Getting cancer treatment is the best way to live longer. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy can all be used to improve mesothelioma life expectancy by months or even years. Mesothelioma treatment plans are often personalized to each patient’s unique situation to help them live longer though. Rare, some patients have gone on to live for 20 years or more thanks to Medical Care. Remember, you’re not alone despite the challenges of a mesothelioma diagnosis. It may be possible to increase your life expectancy and live a long and fulfilling life. The Mesothelioma Hope team has been helping cancer patients for over 20 years. Connect with us now to get help finding top doctors and treatments to improve your mesothelioma life expectancy.

The life expectancies and survival rates outlined here reflect averages of data from hundreds of past mesothelioma patients. Within every statistic, there’s an individual story, and Mesothelioma Hope believes in sharing personal accounts that demonstrate resilience, advocacy, and hope.

Find a specialist who can help increase your mesothelioma life expectancy with our Free Doctor Match.

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5 Factors Impacting Life Expectancy With Mesothelioma

Your mesothelioma type, stage, overall health, and other factors can all influence your life expectancy. Learn more how each of these plays a role in mesothelioma survival.

“Life expectancy with mesothelioma depends on the stage of the disease. It depends on the cell type. I tell patients to stay in the here and now and go one day at a time.”

Amy Fair, RN, Mesothelioma Hope Patient Advocate, 20+ years of experience

1. Type of Mesothelioma

There are four types of mesothelioma that develop in different locations of the body.

The mesothelioma life expectancy for each type is as follows:

  • Pleural mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma starts in the lining of the lung (pleura). On average, patients with pleural mesothelioma live for about 18 months.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma can be treated more aggressively because it develops in the abdominal lining (peritoneum) and may not affect vital organs. It has an average life expectancy of 53 months with treatment.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma: This rare form of mesothelioma affects the lining surrounding the heart, known as the pericardium. It has the shortest life expectancy of all four types, averaging 2-6 months.
  • Testicular mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma starts in the lining of the testes (tunica vaginalis). Patients diagnosed with this type have an average life expectancy of 46.7 months if they receive treatment.

2. Cancer Stage

The stage of mesothelioma at the time of diagnosis can have a significant impact on life expectancy. Pleural mesothelioma has four stages that describe the extent and spread of the cancer.

StageTumor LocationAverage Life Expectancy
Stage 1The tumor is limited to one area of the pleura.21 months
Stage 2The tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes.19 months
Stage 3The tumor has spread to more distant lymph nodes and possibly other organs.16 months
Stage 4The tumor has spread to distant organs.12 months
Source: Frontiers in Oncology, 2018

Stage 4 Survivor Surpasses His Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

It’s possible for patients to defy the odds and become long-term mesothelioma survivors.

Take retired construction worker John Stahl, for example, who was diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma in 2019 and is still alive today thanks to an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment with chemotherapy.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor John Stahl Video Thumbnail

Mesothelioma survivor John Stahl was diagnosed with stage 4 pleural mesothelioma in 2019. More than four years later, he's still enjoying his golden years with his wife, Dee. Call us today at (866) 608-8933 to get the medical help you need to become a survivor. View Transcript.

Duration: 2 min 59 sec

Dee Stahl:
The day started out fine. We got up and John, which is unusual for him, just came out of the bedroom and just sat down, and he said, “I just don’t feel good.” And I knew something was wrong because John doesn’t complain. And I said, “Well, I think we should probably go to the ER.” They found out that there was over two liters of fluid on his left lung, and they were amazed that he was even able to breathe, period. They did a CAT scan, and that’s when he just said, “You have stage four mesothelioma, John.”

John Stahl:
I was kind of blank. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t realize that my job had exposed me to this.

Dee Stahl:
We’re the Stahls. I’m Dee, and this is my husband, John.

John Stahl:
My name is John Stahl. I was first exposed to asbestos poisoning through the construction business, through Sheetrock®, through gaskets, and piping all through my career. And I worked 43 years in the construction business. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. The first treatment was with chemotherapy, and I went every two weeks. It didn’t take long, an hour or so, but it would take me seven to 10 days to recover. That was hard for me because I’m a pretty active person. At first, it didn’t really sink in. The longer I thought about it, it’s gonna end my life eventually, but I’m gonna live it…as well as I can.

Dee Stahl:
Being with John through this, I’m glad I was here for him. He’s got a lot of support. He’s got a lot of friends and family that really care for him. But to be there, John made it easy because he was so positive. I’m just glad I was here for him. He held me up, really.

John Stahl:
Having Dee with me going through this was indescribable. It’s important for people to understand that there’s help and there’s people that are willing to help them.

Dee Stahl:
I think John’s positive attitude has kept him going like he has, having John so halfway healthy. I mean, he’s able to do things and be happy. John’s a very positive guy. He makes you happy.

3. Cell Type

There are three mesothelioma cell types that determine how tumor cells look and behave, how aggressively they spread, and how they respond to treatment.

The chart below shows the average mesothelioma life expectancy for each cell type.

Mesothelioma Cell TypeAverage Life Expectancy
Epithelioid14 months
Sarcomatoid4 months
Biphasic10 months

Epithelioid mesothelioma has the highest life expectancy since it’s the least aggressive cell type and the most responsive to treatment.

4. Treatment

Having access to surgery, chemotherapy, and other mesothelioma treatments plays a crucial role in extending life expectancy.

How well a patient responds to treatment can significantly alter the course of the disease. Treatment can extend someone’s life expectancy with mesothelioma by months or even years.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment

The average life expectancy without treatment is 4-12 months for pleural mesothelioma and 6-12 months for peritoneal mesothelioma.

Patients who don’t qualify for surgery or want to avoid aggressive procedures should speak with a mesothelioma doctor about different palliative treatments that can enhance their quality of life.

5. Age, Lifestyle, Nutrition, and More

Other factors that can impact life expectancy with mesothelioma include:

  • Age: Patients under 50 have the highest survival rates based on data from the NCI.
  • Nutrition: In his battle with pleural mesothelioma, Arthur Putt tried multiple treatments that came with a host of side effects but had limited results. By adding specific nutrients to his diet, he was able to reduce his side effects and strengthen his immune system. Arthur has now surpassed his initial life expectancy by over 4 years.
  • Overall health: Life expectancy is higher for non-smoking patients with no coexisting health conditions. These patients are usually eligible for mesothelioma surgery and tend to remain healthier for longer.
  • Sex: Women with mesothelioma live longer on average than men. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), this might be because men have experienced longer and more intense exposure to asbestos in high-risk industries like shipbuilding and construction.

Find a specialist who can help you improve your life expectancy with our Free Doctor Match.

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Mesothelioma Life Expectancy With Treatment

The best way to increase your mesothelioma life expectancy after diagnosis is with treatment from a specialist.

Standard treatments for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation. New and emerging therapies are also showing promise in clinical trials.

Get more details about mesothelioma life expectancy with treatment below.

Surgery

Patients who receive surgery have an average life expectancy of 19.8 months, according to a 2022 review of the National Cancer Database (NCDB).

Surgery allows mesothelioma doctors to physically remove as much of the cancer as possible. Patients may be able to receive chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy in combination with surgery to kill more cancer cells.

Surgeries that can improve mesothelioma life expectancy include:

Chemotherapy

According to a 2020 OncLive report, mesothelioma patients who receive chemotherapy have an average life expectancy of 14.1 months. Those who qualify for surgery before or after chemotherapy typically have a higher life expectancy.

Mesothelioma chemotherapy involves administering powerful cancer-fighting medications through an IV in multiple cycles with periods of recovery between each session.

Jill LittonJill’s Story: 14+ Years of Survival With Chemotherapy & Surgery

Jill Litton was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2009, shortly after she celebrated her 50th birthday. She was given fewer than 2 years to live. However, she was determined to fight for more time with her family.

“Just because you have cancer and your doctor says you have a year to live doesn’t mean you must suddenly agree to those terms.”
– Jill Litton, 14+ year mesothelioma survivor

Jill received the chemotherapy medications pemetrexed and carboplatin and later underwent cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy. This treatment combination — along with her strong faith — helped her beat her prognosis and make more memories with her children and grandchildren.

You can read more about Jill’s journey and get tips for improving your life expectancy in our Free Mesothelioma Survivors Guide.

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Immunotherapy

Studies show that patients who receive immunotherapy have an average mesothelioma life span of 18.1 months.

Immunotherapy drugs work by training the body’s immune system to recognize and attack tumor cells more effectively, slowing down the growth of cancer.

Opdivo® and Yervoy® is the standard immunotherapy regimen for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Radiation Therapy

According to the NCDB, the average mesothelioma life expectancy with radiation therapy is 12.2 months.

Radiation therapy damages the DNA of cancer cells, causing them to die or stop dividing. Like other treatments, radiation can be combined with surgery to make it more effective and potentially extend life expectancy.

Emerging Treatments and Clinical Trials

Emerging treatments are also showing promise in increasing the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients.

Examples of emerging treatments include:

These and other emerging treatments continue to be tested and refined in mesothelioma clinical trials, offering renewed hope for patients whose cancer hasn’t responded to standard therapies.

Find Mesothelioma Clinical Trials Near You

Improving Your Life Expectancy After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

If you or a family member is facing mesothelioma, remember that there’s always hope.

It’s possible to live a full life with this cancer, and Mesothelioma Hope is here to guide you toward a path of healing.

Our nurses and Patient Advocates can:

  • Connect you with local doctors for treatment
  • Help you find the latest clinical trials
  • Answer your questions about health insurance
  • Explore ways to pay for medical expenses

Call (866) 608-8933 to speak with us right now or get started with our Free Doctor Match.

Malignant Mesothelioma Life Expectancy FAQs

How long do you live after being diagnosed with mesothelioma?

The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients ranges from 12 to 21 months with treatment. However, life expectancy is not set in stone and can vary significantly based on the patient’s mesothelioma type, its stage, and other circumstances.

With existing treatments continually improving and promising new therapies being discovered, patients now have more opportunities than ever to live well beyond their prognosis.

Has anyone ever recovered from mesothelioma?

Yes, there have been cases of patients achieving remission from mesothelioma. Remission occurs when doctors cannot find any evidence of cancer in a patient’s body.

One example is mesothelioma survivor Mary Jane Williams, who had been cancer-free for more than 14 years when she passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2018.

What is the mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment?

The mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment ranges from 4 months to 1 year depending on the type of this cancer and other factors.

  • Pleural mesothelioma: 4-12 months without treatment
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: 6-12 months without treatment

These figures highlight how important it is to pursue treatment as soon as you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

If you’re concerned about side effects from treatment, talk to your care team — they may be able to help you develop a plan to maintain a certain quality of life with less aggressive treatments.

Is there any hope for mesothelioma?

Yes, there is always hope for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer. Advances in medical research and treatment options have significantly improved mesothelioma life expectancy in recent years.

Here are just a few reasons for hope:

  • Advancements in surgery: Surgical techniques have also advanced, including procedures like pleurectomy/decortication for pleural mesothelioma and cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) for peritoneal mesothelioma.
  • Emerging treatments: Innovative treatments like targeted therapy are showing promise in treating mesothelioma more effectively and with fewer side effects than traditional methods.
  • Improved chemotherapy regimens: New combinations of chemotherapy drugs are improving response rates and survival times for mesothelioma patients.
  • Personalized medicine: Treatments are now better tailored to each patient based on genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, which has helped increase their life expectancy with mesothelioma.

Contact us today to find specialists in your area who can help increase your mesothelioma life expectancy.

Dr. Mark LevinReviewed by:Mark Levin, MD

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 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
Jenna TozziWritten by:

Director of Patient Advocacy

Jenna Tozzi, RN, is the Director of Patient Advocacy at Mesothelioma Hope. With more than 15 years of experience as an adult and pediatric oncology nurse navigator, Jenna provides exceptional guidance and support to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. Jenna has been featured in Oncology Nursing News and is a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators & the American Nurses Association.

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References
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