Life Expectancy & Survival

Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis with a 5-year survival rate of only 9%. Most mesothelioma patients have a life expectancy of about 1 year.

Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis is a life altering event for you and your loved ones. You will likely have have many questions like “What do I do now?” and “How long do I have to live?”

While the prognosis for mesothelioma is poor, with only 9% of patients surviving 5 years, the good news is that you may be able to improve your prognosis through conventional treatment methods such as surgery and radiation therapy. Also, newer experimental methods have injected new hope for those seeking to get rid of their cancer. Even if these options are not available to you, you may be able to reduce pain and improve your quality of life through palliative care.

Survival and life expectancy statistics can be cold and frightening. However, it’s important to remember that mesothelioma progresses differently in each individual. When discussing options, your doctor and your family are the best people to help you decide what is best for you. If you need help coping with your prognosis, you may find the information in our community section helpful.

Free 2017 Mesothelioma Prognosis Guide >

Prognosis, Life Expectancy and Survival Rate

When discussing survival information, it is important to understand the different terms involved.

Understanding Terminology

Prognosis

A projection for how the disease is expected to progress and the overall likelihood of survival.

Survival Rate

A percentage that shows how many patients live for a given amount of time after diagnosis.

Life Expectancy

How long a patient is likely to live after diagnosis. This estimate depends on treatment success and other factors.

Statistics are based on large sample groups of people, they are not exact predictions of what will happen to you. Also, many statistics do not take into account the impact of emerging treatments, so the numbers may not be based on treatments being used today.

Coping with Your Prognosis

After receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis, you will have a number of questions to answer and decisions to make:

Common Questions

  • Do I want to pursue treatment?
  • If so, what are the best treatment options for me?
  • What will the side effects of the treatment be?
  • How will I manage treatment side effects and care for myself?
  • Can I afford the treatments necessary to keep me alive?

Finding a mesothelioma specialist who can help guide you through your treatment options is one of the most important decisions you can make. They will be able to answer your questions, evaluate your individual case, and discuss the best treatment options available for you.

Conventional mesothelioma treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have been shown to positively affect prognosis. Furthermore, combining treatments using multimodal therapy improves mesothelioma survival rates even more. Treatment is often more effective in younger individuals with better overall health.

For qualified individuals, enrolling in a clinical trial can be another way to improve your life expectancy. Clinical trials are research investigations in which people volunteer to test new treatments, interventions or tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage various diseases or medical conditions. Many patients have benefited from the kinds of experimental treatments researched in these trials, such as gene therapy and immunotherapy. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in learning more about clinical trials that may be available to you.

If you choose not to pursue conventional treatment, your focus should be on palliative care. The purpose of palliative care is to ease patient symptoms, reduce pain, and improve quality of life, with no attempt to cure the underlying disease. For many patients diagnosed at a later state, palliative care is the only viable option.

Survivor Stories – Hope

Fighting and beating mesothelioma requires strength, courage, and a strong support system. The Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center works with a number of long-term mesothelioma survivors who advocate for patients, as well as a ban on asbestos.

Read Long-Term Survival Stories

Factors Impacting Your Prognosis

Your prognosis will be based on a number of factors, individual to you. No single statistic alone can accurately predict your life expectancy, though combined it may provide a scope into what you can expect.

The factors listed below affect your prognosis most directly. However, your doctor will be able to offer a better explanation of how each factor relates to your individual case.

Cancer Stage

The stage of the cancer is the most important factor when determining your prognosis. Staging refers to the classification of the cancer based on how it has spread throughout a patient’s body. People diagnosed with mesothelioma at an early stage have a far better chance of long-term survival than those who discover their cancer at a later stage.

Life Expectancy by Stage

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma Location and Cell Type

The type of mesothelioma a patient has is classified by where the cancer is located (the lungs, abdomen or heart) and by the cancer cell types that are involved (epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic). The best survival rates occur in people who have peritoneal (abdominal) mesothelioma with an epithelioid cell type.

Life Expectancy by Mesothelioma Type

EpithelioidBiphasicSarcomatoid
Pleural

(Lungs)

19 months13 months8 months
Peritoneal

(Abdomen)

54 months4.6 monthsNot enough data

Note:  Because pericardial mesothelioma is so rare, there is not enough data to calculate life expectancy.

Age and Sex of the Patient

Older people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma generally have poorer survival rates than those diagnosed at a younger age. Seniors often have other health conditions that can complicate treatment or limit their options. Younger people are likely to have better overall health, so their bodies may be better able to handle cancer treatment.

Fewer than 25% of mesothelioma patients are women. However, on average women live nearly 6 months longer than men who are diagnosed at the same age. The reason why women tend to have a better mesothelioma life expectancy than men is not well understood – it may have to do with the fact that women tend to have better overall health and are more likely to get symptoms checked by a doctor earlier than men.

5-Year Survival Rate

Age at DiagnosisMalesFemales
Ages <4534.8%54.1%
Ages 45-5417.3%27.5%
Ages 55-6410.4%17.6%
Ages 65-746.6%13%
Ages 75+2.9%5.2%

Other Factors Affecting Prognosis

Overall prognosis and the likelihood of long-term survival are primarily affected by the items listed above. However, there are several other factors that can affect mesothelioma life expectancy.

  • Genetics: Several studies have shown certain genetic factors play a role in how long mesothelioma patients survive after diagnosis. One example is patients who carry a certain mutation of the BRCA1-associated protein-1 (BAP1) gene tend to have better mesothelioma survival rates.
  • Overall Health: The healthier you are, the more likely your body will be able to fight the cancer and handle aggressive treatments that can help you get better. Exercise, good nutrition, and a strong immune system all work together to improve your prognosis.
  • Smoking History: While smoking does not cause mesothelioma, smokers who are diagnosed with mesothelioma tend to die sooner than patients who have never smoked.
  • Blood Counts: High levels of white blood cells, hemoglobin, or platelets could indicate complications with your cancer, which can result in a poorer prognosis.
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Sources & About the Writer [+]
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  • 5 Curran D, Sahmoud T, Therasse P, van Meerbeeck J, Postmus PE, Giaccone G. Prognostic factors in patients with pleural mesothelioma: the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer experience. J Clin Oncol. Jan 1998;16(1):145-152.
  • 6 Herndon JE, Green MR, Chahinian AP, Corson JM, Suzuki Y, Vogelzang NJ. Factors predictive of survival among 337 patients with mesothelioma treated between 1984 and 1994 by the Cancer and Leukemia Group B. Chest. Mar 1998;113(3):723-731.
  • 7 Flores RM, Zakowski M, Venkatraman E, et al. Prognostic factors in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma at a large tertiary referral center. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2007;2(10):957-965.
  • 8 Frost G, Darnton A, Harding A-H. The Effect of Smoking on the Risk of Lung Cancer Mortality for Asbestos Workers in Great Britain (1971–2005). Annals of Occupational Hygiene. April 1, 2011 2011;55(3):239-247. doi:10.1093/annhyg/meq089
  • About The Writer Photo of Dan Heil Dan Heil

    Dan is a contributing writer for The Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center. He hopes to help educate on everything related to a mesothelioma diagnosis and answer any questions patients or family members may have.