Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma life expectancy varies greatly from patient to patient based on a number of individual factors and circumstances. In general, life expectancy for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma is poor. Mesothelioma cancer is an aggressive malignancy for which symptoms typically will not manifest until the cancer reaches its later stages. While treatment is available for most patients, doctors and cancer specialists will typically reserve aggressive therapies for those patients whose life expectancy is truly anticipated to be extended through these methods.

While mesothelioma life expectancy is innately tied to prognostic and histopathological factors, a patient’s eligibility to undergo aggressive treatment is also tied to his/her ability to manage the side effects associated with these therapies. In many cases, patients who integrate holistic therapy and alternative methods of cancer treatment into traditional therapy regimens have lived far longer than their original prognosis dictated.

What is encouraging is that mesothelioma life expectancy has steadily increased in recent years as a result of more funding being dedicated for mesothelioma research and scholarship among the world’s major cancer centers and higher education institutions. However, historical data with a less encouraging outlook helps to identify those factors that are most likely to affect prognosis. Below are a number of factors that contribute to an educated assessment of mesothelioma life expectancy.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Prognostic Factors


While the prognostic factor of age is likely to be most closely tied to overall patient health, extent of the disease, and eligibility for aggressive treatment than the actual age of the patient, it is nevertheless important as doctors attempt to formulate a treatment protocol for each individual. In a study of 167 mesothelioma patients, those diagnosed at the age of the 65 years and younger had a median life expectancy of 359 days. Those diagnosed between the ages of 65 and 74 years had a medial survival period of 242 days. Patients over the age of 75 diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma had a median life expectancy of 112 days.


Stage of the disease allows for a much clearer timetable to be associated with mesothelioma life expectancy. Patients diagnosed with earlier stage disease are less inhibited by the malignancy’s effect on body function and are therefore assigned much more encouraging prognoses. By the time the disease reaches stage 3 and 4, it has progressed beyond the point of origin and other factors begin to affect patient timetables. In the same study of 167 mesothelioma patients, those diagnosed with stage one mesothelioma were given a median life expectancy of 359 days. Patients diagnosed with stage two mesothelioma were given a median life expectancy of 142 days. Patients diagnosed with stage three and four mesothelioma were given a median life expectancy of 112 days.

Type of Mesothelioma

There are three recognized types of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the lining of the lungs, is the most common and accounts for approximately 80% of all diagnoses. Peritoneal mesothelioma, occurring in the abdominal lining, and pericardial mesothelioma, occurring in the heart’s lining, are other forms of the disease. Life expectancy with each type is poor. Pleural mesothelioma, because it is more common, is generally considered to offer a more favorable prognosis.

Histological Subtype

Malignant mesothelioma will almost unilaterally occur under one malignant cell type designation. These cell types behave differently and are known to affect mesothelioma life expectancy. Patients diagnosed with biphasic mesothelioma generally have a less favorable life expectancy (142 days) than those diagnosed with epithelial or sarcomatoid (242, 207 days, respectively) sub-classifications of the malignancy.

Eligibility for Aggressive Treatment

Patients diagnosed with early-stage mesothelioma may be eligible for an aggressive treatment program involving surgical resection of the tumor and adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation. Because the surgery is an extensive procedure, the patient must be in generally good health and not advanced in age. Doctors who specialize in extensive mesothelioma surgery include Dr. David Sugarbaker of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital International Mesothelioma Program in Boston, MA. Other aggressive surgical treatments are offered at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

View Sources


National Cancer Institute: Mesothelioma Fact Sheet

International Mesothelioma Program: Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases Review: Malignant Mesothelioma

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