Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with a long latency period and usually goes undiagnosed until it’s in advanced stages, making it more difficult to treat. Because of this, prognosis is often poor, with most mesothelioma patients living an average of 1 to 2 years after diagnosis.
Key Points about Mesothelioma Prognosis
- The prognosis of a mesothelioma patient depends on the stage of the cancer, the specific cell type, and the patient’s age and overall health.
- Mesothelioma patients generally live 1 to 2 years after diagnosis.
- Recent advancements in detection techniques and treatment options are helping to improve prognosis for many mesothelioma patients.
A mesothelioma patient’s prognosis details how the cancer will progress following diagnosis and often includes an estimate for how long the patient can expect to live, or the life expectancy. Recent research and clinical trials have led to steady progress in crucial areas like detection, diagnosis, and treatment, improving prognosis and providing hope for many mesothelioma patients. While a mesothelioma prognosis is often bleak, there is hope, and there are patients who survive longer than 10 years.
A projection for how a patient’s disease is expected to progress.
A percentage that shows how many patients live a given amount of time following diagnosis.
The length of time after a diagnosis that a patient is likely to live. This estimate depends on success of treatment and other factors, and is usually included in a prognosis.
Primary Factors that Affect your Prognosis
Three main factors are evaluated by physicians when determining a mesothelioma patient’s prognosis: type of mesothelioma (including cell type), the cancer’s stage, and the patient’s overall health.
Type of Mesothelioma
The type of mesothelioma a patient has is classified by where the cancer is located (the lungs, abdomen, or heart) and by the types of mesothelioma cells that are involved (epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic). Both the location of mesothelioma and cell type affect a patient’s prognosis.
Peritoneal mesothelioma, which is located in the abdomen, has a more favorable prognosis than both pleural mesothelioma (located in the lungs) and pericardial mesothelioma (located in the heart). Pericardial mesothelioma patients generally have the poorest prognosis.
The types of cells which make up your tumor (histology) impacts your prognosis as well. Patients with epithelial mesothelioma survive longer, on average, than those with sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Survival of patients with biphasic mesothelioma falls between patients with epithelial and sarcomatoid mesothelioma.
The stage of a mesothelioma patient’s cancer is determined primarily by tumor size and how much, if at all, it has grown or spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. The earlier mesothelioma is detected and diagnosed, the better the prognosis will be. Late stage mesothelioma (Stage III and IV) is very difficult to treat curatively.
Mesothelioma patients who are in poorer health due to age or whose immune systems are weakened for reasons outside the mesothelioma diagnosis are less able to tolerate more aggressive treatments necessary to improve prognosis.
Ways to Improve your Prognosis
Mesothelioma prognosis has benefited in recent years from advancements in diagnostic methods and treatment, often discovered in clinical trials. The best way to improve a mesothelioma patient’s prognosis, however, is to catch the disease as early as possible.
Depending on a patient’s eligibility, opting for conventional mesothelioma treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can also improve prognosis. Certain combinations of these treatments have also shown better success rates than others. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, be sure to consult with your doctor about all the available treatment options along with how eligible you may be for each.
Early detection allows mesothelioma patients to have more treatment options and improved chances of success. Because of mesothelioma’s long latency period, this has generally been very challenging to do. There have been advancements in early detection, however, including certain blood tests.
If you believe you’ve been exposed to asbestos, the only proven cause of mesothelioma, you should talk to your doctor immediately.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are some steps you can take to improve your prognosis and quality of life, including maintaining a healthy overall lifestyle and keeping stress low. For some qualified patients, enrolling in a clinical trial can be another way to improve prognosis.
Considerable resources are being spent to improve mesothelioma treatment, and a large part of these resources is spent on clinical trials. Enrolling in a clinical trial does not mean you have to give up standard treatment. Many patients have benefited from the kinds of experimental treatments researched in these trials, such as gene therapy and immunotherapy.