As with most other cancers, mesothelioma survival is typically determined by a relative five-year survival rate. This statistic reflects how many patients have survived five years following their mesothelioma diagnosis.
Regardless of the statistics, patients and their loved ones should always follow their doctor’s guidance to understand how they can improve their mesothelioma prognosis and life expectancy.
It may be possible to extend mesothelioma survival past a given life expectancy by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, undergoing surgery, participating in clinical research trials, and combining different therapies.
“My biggest fear was that my daughter would grow up and not remember her mother.”
—Julie, 15+ year mesothelioma survivor
Mesothelioma Survivor Stories
Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, advancements in medicine and cancer research are helping some patients live longer. We hope the following mesothelioma survival stories offer inspiration and encouragement to those fighting this disease.
- Diagnosis: Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Year of Diagnosis: 2006
- Treatment: Chemotherapy, surgery
Julie has been living with mesothelioma since she was 36. She was exposed to asbestos secondhand as a child through her father, who worked as a commercial electrician, in the 1970s. One year after her father died from asbestos-related lung cancer, Julie received her own diagnosis: malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. She was given 6-12 months to live.
Julie was determined to fight her disease so she could continue to be a mom to her daughter, Madeline. From there, she found much-needed support within the asbestos prevention community. Julie also traveled around the country to ensure she received the best medical care possible.
After five intensive surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy, Julie’s cancer is now stable. These treatments have allowed Julie to spend valuable time with her family. She also works tirelessly as a mesothelioma advocate, speaking at several conferences and meeting with Congress to push for a full asbestos ban.
- Diagnosis: Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Year of Diagnosis: 2010
- Treatment: Chemotherapy and surgery
Ginger was already coping with her husband’s benign brain tumor diagnosis when she discovered she had peritoneal mesothelioma at age 40. Still, she found strength in her faith and decided to pursue treatment. She underwent a surgery called cytoreduction with HIPEC to remove the cancer from her abdominal cavity.
Ginger was able to visit Nicaragua on a mission trip one year following her diagnosis. She helped distribute meals to local children and loved every minute of it.
More than a decade after being diagnosed, Ginger is still living her life and finding ways to give back to others. She volunteers for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and helps lead a prayer group for families of mesothelioma victims, survivors, and caregivers.
- Diagnosis: Pleural mesothelioma
- Year of Diagnosis: 2011
- Treatment: Chemotherapy, surgery
Mike was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at just 29 and was told he had less than a year to live. Through chemotherapy and a surgery known as an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), he became a pleural mesothelioma survivor by far outliving his initial prognosis.
He and his wife were able to welcome their first child — a baby girl named Riley — in 2016.
It was his daughter who motivated Mike to dedicate his life to advocating for the ban of asbestos and promoting research toward a cure. He volunteered as Eastern Co-Regional Director of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), sharing his story at congressional staff briefings.
Despite a period of remission, Mike ultimately lost his brave battle with mesothelioma in April 2020. Today, he is remembered for his legacy of fierce advocacy for mesothelioma victims and his fight to help ban asbestos-containing products.
- Diagnosis: Pleural mesothelioma
- Year of Diagnosis: 2002
- Treatment: Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery
Ernie suffered with pain in his shoulder and rib cage for nearly eight years before he was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. He was exposed to asbestos for most of his life, particularly during his career in the auto industry.
Ernie worked as a mechanic at a series of Ford dealerships from 1950 to 1998, when he retired on a union pension. After his mesothelioma diagnosis, Ernie’s doctors developed a multimodal approach to treatment that included chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. These treatments, combined with Ernie’s resilience, helped him survive mesothelioma well beyond the average life expectancy.
Throughout his diagnosis, Ernie was known for visiting St. Louis area union halls and mechanic shops to educate workers about the dangers of asbestos. Sadly, he passed away after a seven-year mesothelioma battle. He maintained a positive attitude throughout his disease that served as an inspiration for others.
Speak with our trusted advocates to learn about the best treatment options.
Mesothelioma Survival Factors
Several factors affect mesothelioma survival rates. Certain factors are out of a patient’s control, such as their age and gender. The placement, stage, and type of mesothelioma cancer also influence the rate of mesothelioma survival.
However, proactive measures like early detection and healthy lifestyle choices can affect mesothelioma survival.
Patient Health and Age
In general, older mesothelioma patients have a lower survival rate than younger patients.
More than half of patients diagnosed before the age of 50 live one year, but less than 30% of patients who are 75+ years live the same amount of time.
The difference in age and survival rate between younger and older patients is mainly due to the eligibility of younger patients for more aggressive treatments, like surgery.
Older patients may not be able to undergo invasive procedures if they’re in poor health, have a compromised immune system, or are at higher risk of medical complications.
Early Detection and Disease Stage
Early detection is an important factor in achieving remission and becoming a survivor. The earlier a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, the more treatment options they will have available to them.
Studies show that nearly half of patients can expect a survival rate of two years — and one-fifth can expect a rate of five years — when mesothelioma is diagnosed early and treated aggressively.
Early detection and diagnosis of mesothelioma allows the cancer to be caught at the localized stage, before it advances to other parts of the body. Localized cancer is considered stage 1 of the disease and can often be treated with surgical removal of the tumor.
After stage 1, the cancer cells will have spread further, and total removal via surgery may no longer be possible. Treating a smaller and limited area of cancer in stage 1 is easier and allows for more treatment options and combinations of treatments.
Specialized Treatments and Disease Management
Mesothelioma patients whose cancer is diagnosed in the earlier stages may be eligible for multimodal therapy, which combines surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Multimodal therapy has been found to have the most positive impact on mesothelioma survival rates. Later-stage patients may be able to receive multimodal therapy if they’re in good overall health and are relatively young.
Additionally, new and alternative treatments are currently being tested in clinical trials. Immunotherapy, gene therapy, and target therapies are prime examples. The outcomes of these clinical research trials could provide mesothelioma patients access to innovative treatments and medications that may extend their life expectancy.
It’s important to remember that disease management is of utmost importance for mesothelioma survivors. This includes reporting any new symptoms and attending regular follow-up appointments with providers and specialists.
How to Improve Your Mesothelioma Prognosis
Many external factors impact mesothelioma survival, but patients can take specific actions to help improve their prognosis.
Get a Second Opinion
Every mesothelioma patient has the right to ask for a second opinion on their diagnosis and treatment options. Getting a second opinion can help a mesothelioma patient feel more confident about the accuracy of their diagnosis.
This typically involves seeking the professional medical advice of a mesothelioma specialist. Every specialist brings unique knowledge and experience to the table, and with the growth of mesothelioma research, it’s important for patients to consider all their options when making decisions about treatment.
Find a Specialist
Mesothelioma specialists can significantly transform the lives of those affected by mesothelioma, including patients and their loved ones.
Finding the right mesothelioma specialist — or team of specialists — is one of the most important decisions a patient can make. Top doctors can diagnose mesothelioma and develop personalized treatment plans for each patient. They can also help manage any side effects associated with treatment.
Some mesothelioma specialists, like Dr. Robert Cameron and the late Dr. David Sugarbaker, have devised new treatments to help patients live longer.
Mesothelioma specialists are also tuned in to the latest treatment options and can determine whether a patient is eligible for a newer procedure or medication. They’re also usually well connected with the research community, which can help if the patient is willing to participate in a clinical trial.
Seek Support and Resources
Mesothelioma can be isolating, but no one should have to go through it alone. Developing a strong support system is essential to maintaining a positive outlook and quality of life.
Many mesothelioma patients find that connecting with others in similar situations can help improve their mental well-being and alleviate some of their stress and fear.
Patients should look for resources that meet their personal needs and preferences. This might include seeing a licensed counselor, attending mesothelioma support groups, or talking to friends and family.
Mesothelioma caregivers and family members may also benefit from this type of support. Our patient advocates can help you find the right support and resources.
As with most cancer patients, individuals with malignant (cancerous) mesothelioma may experience two types of remission: full and partial.
- Full remission: This occurs when a patient has no evidence of disease (NED). NED describes the state when all visible traces of cancer are gone from the body. Because recurrence is still possible, doctors use the terms “NED” and “remission” instead of “cured” when they cannot detect any signs of cancer.
- Partial remission: This occurs when the mesothelioma has been reduced by 50% or more. This reduction can allow mesothelioma to be managed and treated much more easily, even if the cancer has not been fully removed. In partial remission, the patient’s doctor will still see the remaining cancer on CAT or PET scans.
Even if a doctor cannot detect cancer cells with imaging studies, microscopic cancer cells may remain in the body. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee the mesothelioma will never return.
Mesothelioma survival is directly related to the achievement of remission through treatment. Studies across various cancer centers have found an overall median survival rate of about 4.5 years and a maximum rate of 19.5 years for those who achieve remission through treatment.
Some long-term mesothelioma survivors may experience a recurrence of the cancer after a period of apparent remission. Doctors can’t predict with certainty which patients will have a recurrence or when it might occur.
When a patient’s mesothelioma recurs, they experience the same symptoms they had initially. However, the mesothelioma recurrence may be treated differently, particularly if the patient has already had surgery or chemotherapy. For example, an area that was previously radiated may not tolerate further radiation.
Some recommended treatments for mesothelioma recurrence may include:
- Chest wall resection surgery to remove part of a tumor without affecting any nearby organs or major structures
- First-line chemotherapy (in cases where a patient has not previously received chemotherapy)
- Innovative biological therapies administered as part of clinical research trials
- Second-line chemotherapy using a different combination of drugs (in cases where a patient has already had chemotherapy)
Transparency between mesothelioma specialists, researchers, and patients is key to ensuring everyone is kept up to speed on the disease and the steps that can be taken to help achieve remission.
The Importance of Staying Hopeful
Have hope and trust in your care team — and yourself — to help you maintain a high quality of life on your journey to survivorship.
By working with specialists, taking care of your health, and being open to new treatment options, you may be able to achieve long-term survival.
If you would like more information on improving survival rates and achieving remission, please contact our team today. Our Patient Advocates are standing by to help.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mesothelioma Survival
Has anyone survived mesothelioma?
Yes. Many mesothelioma patients have not only survived the disease but outlived their initial prognosis with the use of traditional and emerging treatments. Generally speaking, the earlier mesothelioma is detected, the higher the survival rate.
What is the longest someone has lived with mesothelioma?
Diagnosed in 1997 at age 52, Paul Kraus is currently the longest-living mesothelioma survivor in the world. He believes he experienced asbestos exposure working in a factory as a student in Australia. Paul was first given a six-month prognosis but has been able to survive for more than 20 years since his mesothelioma diagnosis.
Paul’s story is particularly remarkable as he is not only a peritoneal mesothelioma survivor but a Holocaust survivor. He has also survived prostate and brain cancers. He attributes his long-term survival to a comprehensive lifestyle change that involved following a nutrient-rich mesothelioma diet, meditating daily, and incorporating yoga with other gentle forms of exercise.
Does mesothelioma always come back?
No. Many mesothelioma patients have lived for years with their disease in remission. Still, some mesothelioma patients will experience a return of their cancer — also known as recurrence — after a period of it being undetectable.
Is mesothelioma a death sentence?
No. While mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, it is not an automatic death sentence. The medical community continues to develop more sophisticated methods to diagnose and treat mesothelioma. As a result, some victims have survived for years without recurrence.
If you or a loved one think you have mesothelioma, it’s important to find a specialist who’s experienced in researching, diagnosing, and treating the disease.