What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?
The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is approximately 12-21 months and varies based on factors like 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 your 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, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
Learn about other steps you can take to improve your life expectancy.
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.
Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Patients with pleural mesothelioma can expect to live roughly 12 months after diagnosis. However, the stage at which they are diagnosed may influence life expectancy dramatically.
|Pleural Mesothelioma Stage||Life Expectancy|
|Stage 1||22.2 months|
|Stage 2||20 months|
|Stage 3||17.9 months|
|Stage 4||14.9 months|
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
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 1 pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo surgery have a median life expectancy of 22.2 months.
Stage 2 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
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 2 pleural mesothelioma patients who receive surgery have a median life expectancy of 20 months.
Stage 3 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
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 3 pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo surgery have a median life expectancy of about 17.9 months.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
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.
The median life expectancy for a patient diagnosed with stage 4 pleural mesothelioma is 14.9 months with treatment.
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 remain in the abdomen even after it has metastasized.
Life Expectancy of Rare Types of Mesothelioma
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 delicate heart, make it difficult to treat.
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.
Patients who receive an orchiectomy (removal of the testes and any nearby cancerous tissue) only saw their cancer return around 11% of the time.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Factors
Factors affecting life expectancy include:
- Cell type (histology)
- Mesothelioma stage
- Mesothelioma type
- Overall patient health
- Patient age
- Patient sex
- Year diagnosed
With so many factors influencing life expectancy, it can be difficult for a mesothelioma specialist to predict how long a patient will actually live. However, a few important factors have a particularly strong influence on life expectancy.
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 (affects the lining of the delicate heart) have a lower life expectancy, while patients with peritoneal mesothelioma (affects the lining of the abdomen) have the highest.
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.
Stage at diagnosis may affect mesothelioma life expectancy because early-stage patients are better candidates for potentially life-extending surgery. Additionally, early-stage mesothelioma is further from metastasis.
About two-thirds of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed after their cancer is already advanced, however.
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.
|Mesothelioma Cell Type||Median Life Expectancy|
|Epithelioid Mesothelioma||12-24 months|
|Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma||6 months|
|Biphasic Mesothelioma||12 months|
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 aggressive mesothelioma treatment options not available at all cancer centers.
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 aimed at improving life expectancy include:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
- Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D)
- Cytoreduction with HIPEC
For patients who are diagnosed too late to undergo curative surgeries, mesothelioma chemotherapy usually becomes the primary treatment.
Multimodal Treatment Plans
Most mesothelioma specialists agree that combining more than one treatment (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).
Mesothelioma clinical trials are controlled research studies done 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.
Mesothelioma 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.
Next Steps for Improving Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Especially after a mesothelioma diagnosis, try to remain as active as possible. Patients who live a fit and healthy lifestyle tend to better withstand intensive surgeries and other therapies.
Eating a nutritious diet and consuming enough calories are also extremely important during a cancer battle.
Proper nutrition helps to:
- Support immune function
- Give the body more energy to fight cancer cells
- Aid in recovery from aggressive treatments
Consider Alternative and Emerging Treatments
Medical advancements and new research are providing patients the opportunity to extend their life expectancy after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. If your cancer was diagnosed at an earlier stage, and you are otherwise in good health, you may qualify to undergo cutting-edge treatments like gene therapy or immunotherapy.
For example, the immunotherapy drug combination of Opdivo and Yervoy — which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2020 — has shown unquestionable benefits for improving mesothelioma life spans.
Find a Mesothelioma Specialist Near You
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.
If you or your loved one is interested in pursuing treatment for mesothelioma, contact our team today for help finding a specialist near you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mesothelioma Life Span
How long do you live after being diagnosed with mesothelioma?
The average mesothelioma life span after diagnosis is 12-21 months. That said, as treatment technology continues to advance, patients have more opportunities than ever to try and live beyond mesothelioma survival statistics.
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.
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.