Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma life expectancy is a prediction a doctor makes regarding how long a patient can expect to live after a mesothelioma diagnosis. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma is 12-21 months. However, many people live longer than this depending on their mesothelioma type, stage at diagnosis, and overall health. Doctors work with patients to improve their life expectancy through personalized treatment plans.

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

What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?

The average mesothelioma life expectancy with treatment for patients is approximately 12-21 months and varies based on factors like the patient’s overall health, stage at diagnosis, mesothelioma cell type, and what type of mesothelioma the patient has.

Mesothelioma life expectancy, which is the predicted length of time a patient is expected to live after their diagnosis, is part of a patient’s overall mesothelioma prognosis.

Surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments may increase a patient’s mesothelioma life span by several months or even years. Your doctor can work with you to develop a custom treatment plan that gives you the best shot at a longer life span.

“We’re making great strides and research today, and we do see patients who certainly far outlive what the predictions are.”

Mary Hesdorffer, Former Executive Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

Life Expectancy vs. Survival Rate

When giving a patient their prognosis, doctors may also mention mesothelioma survival rate, which is the percentage of people still alive after a particular amount of time. In mesothelioma patients, this rate is usually given in 1-, 3-, or 5-year increments.

A 2017 literature review studied thousands of mesothelioma patients and found a 1-year survival rate of 54%.

On the other hand, life expectancy may refer to a group of people or the individual patient and is usually given as a specific amount of time that patient is expected to live after diagnosis. In mesothelioma patients, this time span is usually measured in months.

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Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Patients with pleural mesothelioma can expect to live roughly 1-2 years after diagnosis. However, the stage at which they are diagnosed may influence life expectancy dramatically.

Stage 1 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo surgery have a median life expectancy of 22.2 months.

Stage 1 mesothelioma is contained to the lining (pleura) of one lung, giving doctors the best chance to remove the tumor through life-extending surgery and other treatments like chemotherapy.


Stage 2 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Stage 2 pleural mesothelioma patients who receive surgery have a median life expectancy of 20 months.

During stage 2 mesothelioma, the tumor remains on one side of the body but has started spreading beyond the lung lining into deeper tissues and nearby lymph nodes. Life-extending surgeries are usually still available.


Stage 3 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Stage 3 pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo surgery have a median life expectancy of about 17.9 months.

In stage 3 mesothelioma, the cancer has spread even farther in the lung tissue and surrounding area. It is contained to nearby lymph nodes. Some patients in otherwise good health may still be eligible for life-extending surgery, but most treatment options are palliative in nature.


Stage 4 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The median life expectancy for a patient diagnosed with stage 4 pleural mesothelioma is 14.9 months with treatment.

By the time a patient develops stage 4 mesothelioma, the tumor has spread to the other side of their chest and to distant areas in their body (metastasis).

Most treatments at this stage aim to ease symptoms, although chemotherapy, clinical trials, and/or other treatments may still help some patients live longer.


Life expectancy by stage
StageLife Expectancy
Stage 122.2 months
Stage 220 months
Stage 311.9 months
Stage 414.9 months

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The life expectancy for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma is around 51.5 months.

Patients who are good candidates for the aggressive cytoreduction with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) procedure have a median survival of 53 months.

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms can be vague, making the disease difficult to diagnose early. However, peritoneal mesothelioma tends to spread more slowly than other types, can be treated more aggressively because it is not near vital organs, and tends to mostly remain in the abdomen even after it has metastasized.

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Life Expectancy for Rare Types of Mesothelioma

Pericardial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Pericardial mesothelioma has the shortest life expectancy of all types, averaging just 6 months. That said, it is extremely rare, making up less than 1% of all mesothelioma cases.

Most cases of pericardial mesothelioma aren’t discovered until after an autopsy has been performed. When patients do receive a diagnosis for this cancer, it has typically already progressed to an advanced stage. This, and the cancer’s location near the heart, make it difficult to treat.

Testicular Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The median life expectancy for testicular mesothelioma after surgery is around 23 months. With only a few hundred cases ever reported, testicular mesothelioma is often diagnosed while a patient is undergoing surgery for what is mistaken as a hernia.

On average, the cancer returns in only 1 out of 10 patients who receive an orchiectomy (removal of the testes and any nearby cancerous tissue) before the cancer spreads.

Factors Impacting Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

With so many factors influencing life expectancy, it can be difficult for a mesothelioma specialist to predict how long a patient will survive. However, a few important factors have a particularly strong influence on life expectancy.

Mesothelioma Type

Each malignant mesothelioma type develops in a different area of the body, and some places are harder to treat than others. In turn, the type of mesothelioma a patient develops can greatly affect life expectancy.

For example, patients with pericardial mesothelioma (which affects the lining of the heart) have a lower life expectancy, while patients with peritoneal mesothelioma (which affects the lining of the abdomen) have the highest.

Cell Type

Mesothelioma is grouped into three main mesothelioma cell types based on how the cancer cells look and behave.

The type of cancer cells (epithelial mesothelioma cells, biphasic cells, or sarcomatoid cells) that make up a patient’s mesothelioma tumors can have a major impact on a patient’s life expectancy.

Life expectancy by cell type
Cell TypeLife Expectancy
Epithelioid12-24 months
Sarcomatoid6 months
Biphasic12 months

Cancer Stage

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the only type that is well-studied enough to be classified using an official staging system. However, as a general rule, the earlier a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, the longer they can expect to survive.

Mesothelioma stage at diagnosis may affect life expectancy because early-stage patients are better candidates for potentially life-extending surgery. Additionally, early-stage mesothelioma is further from metastasis.

Unfortunately, about two-thirds of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed after their cancer is already advanced.

Other Life Expectancy Factors

Mesothelioma life expectancy may be affected by many factors outside of a patient’s cancer traits. Various studies have shown characteristics of the patients themselves may influence life expectancy — sometimes considerably.

Other mesothelioma life expectancy factors include:

  • Age: Mesothelioma patients under 45 tend to have the longest life expectancy after diagnosis.
  • Overall health: Mesothelioma patients who are in otherwise good health and do not smoke tend to have a longer life expectancy on average. Such patients are more fit for life-extending surgeries and tend to remain healthier longer.
  • Sex: Women with mesothelioma are consistently shown to live longer on average than their male counterparts. This may be because men tend to have heavier asbestos exposure or because women tend to develop the disease at a younger age. Some studies also indicated that estrogen may play a role.

Getting treatment from an experienced oncologist may help improve mesothelioma life expectancy. Use our free Mesothelioma Doctor Match to find a specialist near you.

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Treatment to Improve Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

One of the best ways patients can improve their life expectancy by months or even years is by working with a specialist at a top mesothelioma cancer treatment center.

These facilities employ highly experienced doctors who can perform mesothelioma treatment options not available at all cancer centers.

Most mesothelioma specialists agree that combining more than one treatment (known as multimodal therapy) is the most effective way to increase survival time. In fact, the best chemotherapy results are currently achieved when paired with surgery, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Learn more about mesothelioma treatment options below.

Surgery

When mesothelioma is diagnosed at an early enough stage and a patient is otherwise fit, doctors usually recommend mesothelioma surgery to physically remove as much of the cancer as possible. Surgeons generally pair surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Surgeries aiming to improve life expectancy include:

For patients who are diagnosed too late to undergo curative surgeries, mesothelioma chemotherapy usually becomes the primary treatment.

Chemotherapy

Mesothelioma chemotherapy is another treatment option aiming to improve mesothelioma life expectancy after diagnosis.

Chemotherapy is given in cycles and focuses on killing off cancer cells, shrinking tumors, and preventing growth of new cells.

There are several chemotherapy drugs that are given intravenously, such as cisplatin, pemetrexed, carboplatin, gemcitabine, and more.

To treat peritoneal mesothelioma, many specialists will use heated chemotherapy drugs to coat the abdomen and kill remaining cancer cells after performing cytoreductive surgery.

Emerging Treatments

Mesothelioma clinical trials are controlled research studies conducted to develop and improve emerging treatments such as gene therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.

The medical advancements made through these trials provide mesothelioma patients, especially those with late-stage cancer, opportunities to extend their life expectancy.

Doctor Checking Elderly Male

The most recent success in mesothelioma clinical trials is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of a combination of immunotherapy drugs. In October 2020, the FDA approved nivolumab plus ipilimumab (OPDIVO® and YERVOY®) to treat pleural mesothelioma after it proved effective in increasing life expectancy.

Life Expectancy Without Treatment

The average survival of cancer patients who do not receive mesothelioma treatment is roughly 12 months. Some mesothelioma patients choose to or are eligible to receive only palliative care, which is designed to help with symptom management and improving quality of life.

Patients who don’t qualify for or who don’t want to undergo aggressive treatments are encouraged to talk with their oncologist and care team about their options.

Find a Mesothelioma Specialist Near You

After being diagnosed with mesothelioma, many patients may wonder how they can improve their prognosis.

Treating mesothelioma as early as possible offers patients the greatest chance of extending their life expectancy. To access these treatments, work with a mesothelioma doctor who has experience performing various treatment options and knowledge about clinical trials.

Getting proper cancer treatment, staying active, eating healthy, and getting plenty of rest may help improve your life expectancy and overall quality of life.

If you or your loved one is interested in pursuing treatment for mesothelioma, use our free Mesothelioma Specialist Match program to find a specialist near you.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy FAQs

What is the life expectancy for mesothelioma?

The average mesothelioma life span after diagnosis is 12-21 months. That said, mesothelioma life expectancy varies greatly by cancer type, stage, and other factors.

As treatment technology continues to advance, patients have more opportunities than ever to live beyond current mesothelioma survival statistics.

How long can you live with untreated mesothelioma?

Some patients may not qualify for life-extending treatment due to the stage of their cancer, and some may choose to forgo treatment. Without treatment, mesothelioma patients live an average of 12 months.

What happens in the final stages of mesothelioma?

In late-stage mesothelioma, the cancer has spread to distant areas in the body. As the cancerous tumors grow and spread, they typically make symptoms worse and cause significant discomfort for patients. Symptoms may include painful coughing, pain in the chest or abdomen, and shortness of breath.

Treatment for the final stages of mesothelioma includes various palliative therapies that focus on managing symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life.

What mesothelioma cell type has the best life expectancy?

Epithelial cells typically grow slowly and respond well to treatment, giving patients with this cell type the best life expectancy. Epithelioid mesothelioma life expectancy is 1-2 years on average.

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.

8 References
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  2. Chemotherapy for malignant mesothelioma. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/treating/chemotherapy.html

  3. Plas, E., Riedl, C., & Pflüger, H. (2000, November 9). Malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: Review of the literature and assessment of prognostic parameters. Cancer. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9874447/

  4. Radiation therapy for malignant mesothelioma. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/treating/radiation.html

  5. Shavelle, R., Vavra-Musser, K., Lee, J., & Brooks, J. (2017, January 23). Life expectancy in pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. Lung Cancer International. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2782590

  6. Understanding cancer statistics – incidence, survival, mortality. Cancer Research UK. (2021, February 25). Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/what-is-cancer/understanding-cancer-statistics-incidence-survival-mortality#survival

  7. What is malignant mesothelioma? American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/about/malignant-mesothelioma.html

  8. Zhang, N., Fu, N., Peng, S., & Luo, X. (2017, December 1). Malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: A case report and literature review. Molecular and Clinical Oncology. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mco.2017.1450

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