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The average life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis is 18 – 31 months, with treatment. Some patients have been survivors for 10 years or longer. Factors such as mesothelioma type, stage and patient health can impact life expectancy. Treatment may help improve survival for some patients.


01. Life Expectancy

What Is Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?

Life expectancy is the length of time a patient can expect to survive after diagnosis. Life expectancies vary greatly based on if patients go with or without treatment. With treatment, a mesothelioma patient’s average life expectancy is 18 – 31 months. Without treatment, mesothelioma life expectancy is about six months.

Many factors impact life expectancy, such as cell type, location and cancer stage. As a result, a patient’s life expectancy may be outside the average range. Life expectancy may also change over time, depending on treatment efficacy and how an individual’s case develops.

Life expectancy varies on a case-by-case basis. Patients should discuss their individual cases with their doctors. This can help patients better understand their life expectancy and treatment options. During these conversations, patients may also hear terms like mesothelioma prognosis and survival rate.

Survival-Related Terms Patients Might Hear

Various terms may be used to discuss life expectancy. Patients may hear some or all of these while talking with their doctors.

  • Median survival is the point at which half of the patients in a study are living.
  • Prognosis is the medical expectation about various details of disease progression and survival. Details may include treatment plans, life expectancy and quality of life.
  • Survival rate is the percentage of patients living after a set period of time from diagnosis.
02. Life Expectancy by Type

Life Expectancy by Mesothelioma Type

One important factor that impacts average life expectancy is the type of mesothelioma. Each type of mesothelioma comes with its own life expectancy range.

Mesothelioma cancer occurs in four main types, according to location. For example, pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs (the pleura). Another common type, peritoneal mesothelioma, develops in the abdominal lining tissue (the peritoneum). Less commonly, mesothelioma can also be testicular or pericardial (in the lining of the heart).

Some patients with these different types have outlived the average life expectancies. Besides the type of mesothelioma, other factors may affect this range.

Average Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

With treatment, the average life expectancy for malignant pleural mesothelioma is about 18 months. Pleural mesothelioma forms in the tissue surrounding the lungs called the pleura. The tumors may form near or spread into important organs such as the heart and lungs.

Treatment of pleural mesothelioma can be very specialized. So, it is important to see a doctor with pleural mesothelioma treatment experience. Research shows that treatment can improve pleural mesothelioma life expectancy.

Common pleural mesothelioma treatment methods include surgery and multimodal therapies. With treatment, some pleural mesothelioma patient lifespans have reached three years and longer.

Average Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

With treatment, the average life expectancy for malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is about 31 months. Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the lining surrounding the abdomen called the peritoneum. The tumors may form on or around abdominal organs such as the intestines.

Treatments may improve how long some patients survive. With treatment, some peritoneal mesothelioma patient lifespans have reached six years or longer. One of the most promising peritoneal treatments is hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). HIPEC commonly occurs after cytoreductive surgery (CRS).

Average Pericardial and Testicular Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

With treatment, the average life expectancy for pericardial mesothelioma is about six months.

Pericardial mesothelioma forms in the lining surrounding the heart called the pericardium. These tumors being so close to the vital organ may impact treatment approaches. Pericardial mesothelioma is a less common form of mesothelioma. As a result, treatment options may be limited.

For testicular mesothelioma with treatment, the average life expectancy is about six years.

Testicular mesothelioma forms in the tissue surrounding the testes called the tunica vaginalis. It is one of the least common forms of mesothelioma. Treatment may improve life expectancy in some cases. Some testicular mesothelioma patient lifespans have reached 10 years or more with treatment.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Cell Type

Mesothelioma cell type may also impact patient life expectancy. Mesothelioma occurs in three main cell types: biphasic, epithelioid and sarcomatoid. Biphasic is a mixture of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Other less common cell types may have different life expectancies.

Epithelioid mesothelioma patients may have a longer life expectancy than sarcomatoid mesothelioma patients. In general, epithelioid mesothelioma cells may respond better to treatment. Life expectancy ranges vary for biphasic mesothelioma patients. In part, the ranges depend on the main cell type.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Cell Type and Location

Pleural Mesothelioma
  • Epithelioid: 19 months
  • Biphasic: 13 months
  • Sarcomatoid: 8 months
Peritoneal Mesothelioma
  • Epithelioid: ~6.5 years
  • Biphasic: 10 months
  • Sarcomatoid: 10 months
03. Factors Impacting Life Expectancy

Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Besides location and cell type, mesothelioma life expectancy may vary for many reasons. Common factors include mesothelioma stage at diagnosis, mesothelioma location and overall patient health. Many of these factors are outside of a patient’s control.

Still, it may be helpful to understand how individualized life expectancy can be. While the average life expectancy may be accurate for some patients, it may vary for others. Many factors influence life expectancy, so it is unique to each case.

Having a custom treatment plan may help improve life expectancy. Patients should work with mesothelioma specialists to develop their treatment plans.

Mesothelioma Stage

Diagnosing and identifying early-stage mesothelioma may lead to a longer life expectancy. If doctors diagnose mesothelioma at stage 1 or 2, the cancer may not have metastasized. When cancer metastasizes, it spreads to other areas of the body. As mesothelioma spreads, it may affect treatment options.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Stage

*These ranges include both peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma patients who receive treatment.

At these earlier stages of mesothelioma, patients may have different treatment options. Treatments may also be better tolerated in early-stage mesothelioma patients. Treatment at stage 1 and 2 may result in a life expectancy ranging from 19 months to more than 5.5 years.

At stages 3 and 4, mesothelioma may have spread to lymph nodes and/or distant organs. Patients may face more limited treatment options as a result. For example, late-stage patients may not be eligible for certain surgeries. General life expectancy for stage 3 and 4 mesothelioma ranges from 1 to 4.5 years.

Patient Age, Gender and Overall Health

Mesothelioma life expectancy may also vary depending on patient age, health and gender. Doctors will take these into account when estimating a patient’s life expectancy.

  • Age: Some research shows patients 75 years or older may have a shorter life expectancy than those 50 years or younger. One study showed individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma at age 44 or younger lived almost six times as long as those diagnosed at 75 or older.
  • Health: General health can also affect the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients. Patients in good health may have more treatments available to improve life expectancy. Patients with poorer health or pre-existing conditions may have fewer treatment options available. This may result in a shortened life expectancy.
  • Gender: In general, women diagnosed with mesothelioma live longer than men with mesothelioma. One mesothelioma study found women lived about eight months longer than men.

Other Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Various other factors may also affect a patient’s life expectancy. Some factors include a history of smoking and blood chemistry.

  • A history of smoking: Cigarette smoking does not cause mesothelioma. Cigarette smokers who are exposed to asbestos may be more likely to develop asbestos-related lung cancer. Smoking may also impact the effectiveness of some treatments.
  • Blood cell counts: Some blood characteristics may impact life expectancy or patients’ treatment response. Examples include elevated white blood cell count, high platelet count and low hemoglobin levels.

Other biological factors, such as race, may also impact life expectancy. However, at this time their connection is not fully researched or understood.

04. Life Expectancy With Treatment

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy With Treatment

Treatment may improve mesothelioma life expectancy for some patients. In general, the average mesothelioma life expectancy is 18 – 31 months. Some patients have lived longer than the average life expectancy.

Mesothelioma doctors can create personalized treatment plans aimed at improving survival time. These treatment plans may combine different methods, like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Recommended treatment options vary case by case. Because of various individual factors, some treatments may be a better fit than others. Doctors can consider such factors when developing mesothelioma treatment plans.

Surgery

Surgery to remove malignant tissue is a common mesothelioma treatment option. Doctors may also use it to help manage symptoms. Surgery is rarely offered alone for mesothelioma patients. When combined with other methods, surgery may offer benefits to patients.

Based on each patient’s case, different types of surgeries serve specific purposes. Some surgery methods may help extend life expectancy. Other methods may help improve quality of life. For example, therapeutic surgery’s goal is to remove as much visible tumor tissue as possible. This may help extend life expectancy.

In other cases, surgery may be a form of palliative care. Palliative surgeries may not extend how long patients survive. But these treatments may still improve quality of life. In one pleural mesothelioma study, some patients underwent a palliative surgery called pleurodesis. These patients lived six months longer than those who received no treatment.

Multimodal Treatment

In multimodal treatment plans, doctors combine two or more treatment methods. Often, combined treatment methods may lead to longer survival or greater patient comfort. Among others, surgery and chemotherapy are common treatment combinations.

For example, pleural mesothelioma patients may receive hyperthermic intrathoracic chemotherapy (HITHOC) after surgery. In one study, survival for this combination reached 42 months.

Peritoneal mesothelioma patients may receive cytoreductive surgery (CRS) to reduce tumor mass. In general, doctors then administer heated, local chemotherapy. This combination is called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). Survival for this method may reach two years or longer.

Patient Story: Heather Von St. James’ Treatment Plan Improved Survival

  • Heather Von St. James is a 16-year pleural mesothelioma survivor, diagnosed in 2005 at 36 years old. Without treatment, she had less than a 15-month survival expectation.
  • Heather had a multimodal treatment plan that involved several methods. These methods included surgery, heated chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Heather has outlived her original life expectancy by more than 14 years. She continues to be an advocate for mesothelioma patients and provides support for many people.

Chemotherapy

Mesothelioma treatment plans commonly involve chemotherapy. Doctors may provide chemotherapy alone or combine it with other treatment methods.

Chemotherapy may be systemic, which is traditionally given intravenously or by pill. This chemotherapy may impact the entire body.

Doctors have also used other forms, called intracavitary, for some mesothelioma patients. Intracavitary, or localized chemotherapy, is only used in specific areas of the body. Common intracavitary chemotherapy methods are:

In general, mesothelioma patients receiving chemotherapy may survive from one to five years.

Immunotherapy

Research shows immunotherapy can improve mesothelioma survival. In studies, mesothelioma patients treated with immunotherapy lived 18 to 24 months. Immunotherapy helps the body identify and fight cancer cells. It has proven helpful for patients with average and difficult-to-treat cases.

One important mesothelioma immunotherapy is a combination of checkpoint inhibitor drugs: Opdivo® and Yervoy®. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved ipilimumab (Yervoy) + nivolumab (Opdivo) for pleural mesothelioma. In a study, patients treated with Opdivo + Yervoy lived about 18 months. Interested patients can discuss this option with their doctors.

Clinical Trials and Emerging Treatments

Mesothelioma cancer research continues to test different treatment methods in clinical trials. These trials may offer both standardized and emerging treatment methods. There are different eligibility criteria for each trial. Patients can discuss possible clinical trials with their doctors.

Examples of emerging treatments include tumor-treating fields (TTFields), CAR T-cell therapy and photodynamic therapy.

Some clinical trial treatments may help improve life expectancy. For instance, one study treated mesothelioma with CAR T cells and pembrolizumab (Keytruda®). The survival for pleural mesothelioma patients in this study was 23.9 months.

Alternative Therapies May Improve Quality of Life

So far, alternative therapies have not shown documented improvement in mesothelioma life expectancy. Still, when used with traditional methods, these treatments may offer some benefits. Alternative therapies may complement standard care by improving patient comfort. Some alternative therapies may also help ease side effects from treatments like chemotherapy.

Before trying any alternative treatment methods, patients should speak with their doctors. Some alternative therapies may not work with their unique treatment plans.

05. Life Expectancy Without Treatment

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment

Without treatment, the average mesothelioma life expectancy is about six months. Factors including cell type and stage may influence survival time without treatment. The same factors may impact survival for patients receiving treatment, too. Doctors can explain if treatment may improve each patient’s individual life expectancy.

Some patients may choose not to receive treatment for a variety of reasons. Patients can work with their doctors to understand all their options before deciding.

For example, some patients may worry about the physical impact of treatment. They may believe treatment is too invasive or painful to consider. But thanks to medical advances, these concerns may be unfounded for some methods.

One such advance is immunotherapy. In general, immunotherapy can be milder than traditional cancer treatment methods. The immunotherapy drugs Opdivo and Yervoy have FDA approval for treating inoperable pleural mesothelioma. In a study, this drug combination extended survival to about 18 months. Opdivo + Yervoy patients also had a higher quality of life compared to chemotherapy patients.

In some cases, treatment may not be a method to extend survival. Still, treatment may be helpful to mesothelioma patients in other ways. Some palliative treatment methods can be gentle and aimed at improving comfort and quality of life.

Patients can discuss all treatment options with their doctor. These options may include emerging, milder or palliative treatment methods. For some patients, these may be a better fit for their care plan.

06. Improving Lifespan

Can Patients Improve Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?

Treatment offers the best chance to improve a mesothelioma patient’s life expectancy. Besides treatment, various factors may influence malignant mesothelioma life expectancy. Many of these factors are outside of a patient’s control, including:

  • Age
  • Cell type
  • Gender
  • Mesothelioma location
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Tumor stage

Besides treatment, there may be other ways to help improve quality of life and extend survival. For example, patients may focus on things such as fitness training and nutrition. Still, treatment generally provides the best chance of improving life expectancy.

Patients can work with a mesothelioma specialist to choose the best treatment approach. Specialists can also explain how fitness or nutrition may help support patient health.

Work With a Mesothelioma Specialist

After diagnosis, patients may work with mesothelioma doctors to determine the next steps. These doctors have experience treating this type of cancer. They can create custom treatment plans for each individual patient’s case.

Many mesothelioma doctors are also researchers in clinical trials. They may help interested patients understand eligibility and which trials may be best.

Fitness Training May Help Patients

Fitness training may benefit mesothelioma patients in various ways. Some research shows resistance training may help reduce fatigue during cancer treatment. Other research shows exercise may help reduce the risk of cancer returning after treatment. In turn, exercise may have a positive impact on life expectancy.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that cancer survivors exercise regularly. This recommendation includes weekly aerobic and strength training activities.

Patients can discuss fitness regimes and training options with their oncology teams. These healthcare providers can help develop a safe training plan.

Nutrition May Help Patients Before, During and After Treatment

Proper nutrition and diet can benefit mesothelioma patients in many ways. This includes improving quality of life and helping prepare for treatment. Maintaining nutrition may also help manage some side effects during treatment. After treatment, eating a nutrient-dense diet can help fuel recovery.

Cancer-fighting foods do not have a direct effect on mesothelioma or tumors. Still, doctors may make recommendations about nutrition to support mesothelioma treatment. Adding certain foods into a patient’s diet may help manage treatment side effects. Some foods can also increase energy and help maintain a healthy weight. Poor diet and malnutrition may even have a negative effect on life expectancy.

Patients can speak with their doctor and a nutritionist about a proper diet. Based on individual factors, each patient’s recommended diet may vary.

Spotlight: Traits of Cancer Patients Who Outlived Their Life Expectancies

The Exceptional Responders Initiative (ERI) is a program that studies patients who outlive their initial life expectancy. The program looks for common traits among these survivors, called exceptional responders. This information may help future patients make choices that extend survival.

The program recently analyzed the lifestyle traits of exceptional responders before and after cancer treatment. The analysis included a small number of mesothelioma patients. It found several trends among patients who beat their life expectancy estimates:

  • Alternative therapies: 60% of exceptional responders used some form of complementary or alternative medicine. Massage and acupuncture were the most common.
  • Dietary changes: 50% of exceptional responders changed their diet after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The majority of those patients decreased their meat and carbohydrates while increasing fruit and vegetable intake.
  • Exercise changes: 33% of exceptional responders started exercise programs or increased their exercise levels.
  • Supplements: 50% of exceptional responders took some form of vitamin or mineral supplement.
  • Spirituality: 67% of exceptional responders participated in some form of prayer.

Patients with these traits lived three times as long as expected. These results could be encouraging news for patients looking for a way to improve longevity. However, at this stage researchers do not yet know which, if any, of these traits were responsible for the patients’ longevity. As such, mesothelioma patients who make the same choices may not see similarly improved lifespans.

Still, mesothelioma patients hoping to take active steps to improve their life expectancy may want to consider these. Cancer patients considering any diet, exercise or lifestyle changes should discuss them with an oncologist. This can help ensure the patient’s changes do not interfere with their main treatment.

Source: Translational Oncology

07. Common Questions

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

How long can you live after being diagnosed with mesothelioma?

The average mesothelioma life expectancy range is 18 – 31 months. However, mesothelioma lifespans may be longer based on the type, stage at diagnosis, location, overall health and other contributing factors. Treatment advances have led to more reports of patients living 10 years or longer.

How long can you live with advanced mesothelioma?

The average life expectancy for advanced stage 4 mesothelioma ranges from about 12 – 26 months. However, life expectancy by stage can vary based on other factors such as treatment approach.

Can mesothelioma life expectancy be improved?

Multimodal treatments with surgery and chemotherapy have improved mesothelioma life span by months to years. Immunotherapy and other treatments have also improved mesothelioma life expectancy for some patients. Mesothelioma doctors can consider all options and develop a personalized treatment plan.

What is the difference between life expectancy and prognosis?

Life expectancy is the length of time a patient is expected to live. Prognosis is a more complete look at what the patient can expect from their condition and its treatment. This may include the patient’s potential lifespan and quality of life. A comprehensive prognosis often includes life expectancy and survival rate data.

What is the longest someone has lived with mesothelioma?

Some mesothelioma patients have outlived average life expectancy by more than one decade. Heather Von St. James is just one example. She has been a mesothelioma survivor for more than 16 years. Her original life expectancy was two years. Treatment and many other factors may impact individual life expectancy.

What mesothelioma cell type has the best life expectancy?

Of the three main cell types, epithelioid mesothelioma generally has the best life expectancy, ranging from about 19 months to 6.5 years. This may be because epithelial cells respond better to treatment than other cell types.