What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?
The average mesothelioma life expectancy with treatment is approximately 12-21 months. This time frame varies based on several factors, such as the patient’s overall health, stage at diagnosis, mesothelioma cell type, and type of mesothelioma.
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, and 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 personalized treatment plan that gives you the best shot at a longer life span.
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Life Expectancy vs. Survival Rate
When explaining a patient’s prognosis, doctors may also mention their 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-, and 5-year increments.
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 the 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 have an average life expectancy of about 18 months. However, the stage at which they are diagnosed may influence life expectancy dramatically.
To determine your specific life expectancy, you should connect with a mesothelioma doctor.
Stage 1 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo curative surgery have a median life expectancy of 21 months.
Stage 1 mesothelioma is contained to the lining of one lung (pleura), 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 curative surgery have a median life expectancy of 19 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 curative surgery have a median life expectancy of 16 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 12 months with curative surgery.
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 other treatments can help some patients live longer.
Life expectancy by stage
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
The average peritoneal mesothelioma life expectancy is 53 months for patients who undergo the surgical procedure known as cytoreduction with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).
Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms can be mild or similar to symptoms of other conditions, making this type of the cancer 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.
Getting treatment from an experienced oncologist may help improve peritoneal mesothelioma life expectancy. Use our Free Mesothelioma Doctor Match to find a specialist near you.
Life Expectancy for Rare Types of Mesothelioma
Pericardial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Pericardial mesothelioma has the shortest life expectancy of all types, averaging 2-6 months. However, this type of cancer 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 circumstance, along with the cancer’s proximity to the heart, make it difficult to treat.
Testicular Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
The median life expectancy for testicular mesothelioma after surgery is 46.7 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.
Testicular mesothelioma recurs (comes back) in 60% of cases within 2 years after radical orchiectomy (removal of the testes and any nearby cancerous tissue), with a median life expectancy of 12 months after recurrence.
That said, it’s still possible for many testicular mesothelioma patients to live for 10 years or more with this cancer.
“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
Factors Impacting Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
With so many factors influencing life expectancy, it can be difficult for a mesothelioma doctor to predict how long a patient will survive. 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 (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 longest life expectancy.
Mesothelioma is grouped into three main mesothelioma cell types based on how the cancer cells look and behave:
- Epithelioid (also called epithelial)
The type of cancer cells that make up a patient’s mesothelioma tumors can have a major impact on a patient’s life expectancy.
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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.
Since about two-thirds of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed after their cancer is already advanced, it’s important to seek treatment from a specialist right away.
Other Life Expectancy Factors
Mesothelioma life expectancy may be affected by many factors outside of a patient’s cancer traits. Various studies have shown that certain characteristics of the patients themselves may influence their life expectancy with mesothelioma — 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.
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Treatments 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 center.
These facilities employ highly experienced doctors who can recommend mesothelioma treatments 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.
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 that can improve someone’s life expectancy with mesothelioma include:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) for pleural mesothelioma
- Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) for pleural mesothelioma
- Cytoreduction with HIPEC for peritoneal mesothelioma
For patients who are diagnosed too late to undergo curative surgeries, chemotherapy usually becomes the primary treatment.
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 medications that are given intravenously, such as carboplatin, cisplatin, gemcitabine, and pemetrexed.
To treat peritoneal mesothelioma, many specialists will use heated chemotherapy drugs to coat the abdomen and kill remaining cancer cells after performing cytoreductive surgery.
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.
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.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment
The average survival of patients who do not receive mesothelioma treatment is 4-12 months for pleural mesothelioma and 6-12 months for peritoneal mesothelioma.
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.
Our Patient Advocates can recommend specific treatments to help extend your life expectancy.
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. Because of this, you should work with a mesothelioma doctor who has experience performing various treatments and is knowledgeable 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 needs treatment for mesothelioma, let us help find a doctor near you for free.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy FAQs
What is the life expectancy for mesothelioma?
The average mesothelioma life span after diagnosis is 12-21 months with treatment. 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 others may choose to forgo treatment.
The average mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment is 12 months or less.
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 14 months on average.