Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

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This page was medically reviewed by James Stevenson, M.D. on February 6, 2019. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have comments or questions on our content please contact us.

James Stevenson, M.D. Thoracic Medical Oncologist

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The average mesothelioma life expectancy range is 18 to 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.

01. Overview

What Is Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?

Life expectancy is the length of time a patient can expect to survive with or without treatment. An individual’s life expectancy is based on a variety of factors, such as cell type, location and stage of the cancer. Life expectancy may also change over time depending on the efficacy of treatment and how an individual’s case develops.

Life expectancy varies on a case-by-case basis. Patients should discuss their individual case with a doctor to better understand their life expectancy and treatment options. When discussing life expectancy, patients may also hear related terms, such as prognosis and survival rate.

02. Life Expectancy by Type

Life Expectancy by Mesothelioma Type

Each type of mesothelioma comes with its own life expectancy range. This range may be affected by other factors in addition to the type of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma occurs in four main types, according to location.

Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Malignant pleural mesothelioma patients have an average life expectancy of about 18 months.

Pleural mesothelioma forms in the tissue surrounding the lungs, called the pleura. The tumors may form near or even spread into important organs such as the heart and lungs. This can make treatment of pleural mesothelioma difficult. However, research indicates treatment may improve pleural mesothelioma life expectancy.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Patients diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma generally have a life expectancy of two to six years.

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. However, many patients undergo surgical treatment. Multiple studies indicate aggressive treatment may improve life expectancy in peritoneal mesothelioma.

Pericardial and Testicular Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Patients with pericardial mesothelioma face an average life expectancy of approximately six months.

Pericardial mesothelioma forms in the lining surrounding the heart, called the pericardium. The location of these tumors may make treatment difficult or risky. Pericardial mesothelioma is also one of the rarest forms of mesothelioma. Thus, treatment options may be limited.

Patients with testicular mesothelioma have a median life expectancy of about six years.

Testicular mesothelioma forms in the tissue surrounding the testes, called the tunica vaginalis. It is one of the rarest forms of mesothelioma. Testicular mesothelioma patients have experienced lifespans of 10 years or more with treatment.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Cell Type

Mesothelioma life expectancy may be affected by cell type. Mesothelioma occurs in three main cell types: epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic. Biphasic is a mixture of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells.

Patients with epithelioid mesothelioma often have a longer life expectancy than those with sarcomatoid mesothelioma. This is because epithelioid mesothelioma cells respond better to treatment. Those with biphasic mesothelioma have a varied life expectancy depending on the dominant cell type.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Cell Type and Location

Pleural Mesothelioma

  • Epithelioid: 19 months
  • Biphasic: 13 months
  • Sarcomatoid: 8 months

Source: Journal of Thoracic Oncology

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

  • Epithelioid: ~6.5 years
  • Biphasic: 10 months
  • Sarcomatoid: 10 months

Source: Cancer

03. Impacting Factors

Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

In addition to location and cell type, mesothelioma life expectancy may also vary with stage, gender and age. Individual patient factors, including blood chemistry and overall health, have also been linked to improved life expectancy.

Mesothelioma Stage

Diagnosing and identifying mesothelioma in its early stages may improve a patient’s life expectancy. If mesothelioma is diagnosed at stage 1 or 2, the cancer may not have metastasized, or spread to other areas of the body. At these earlier stages, patients may have more treatment options. Treatments may also prove more effective for early stage mesothelioma. This may result in a life expectancy ranging from 19 months to more than 5.5 years.

However, at stages 3 and 4, mesothelioma has spread to lymph nodes and distant organs. Patients may face more limited treatment options as a result. Life expectancy for stages 3 and 4 ranges from one to two years.

Patient Age, Sex and Overall Health

Older mesothelioma patients generally have shorter life expectancies. These patients are often in poorer health and have pre-existing health conditions that limit viable treatment options.

One study showed individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma at age 44 or younger lived nearly six times as long as those diagnosed at 75 or older.

In general, women diagnosed with mesothelioma live longer than men with mesothelioma. One study of mesothelioma patients found women lived about 8 months longer than men.

Men are also more commonly diagnosed than women. This is likely the result of men working in high-risk asbestos occupations during the height of its use.

Overall health can also affect the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients. Patients in good health are more likely to undergo aggressive treatments for improved life expectancy. Those with poor health or pre-existing conditions may have fewer treatment options available and face a shorter life expectancy.

Other Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Many other factors may affect a patient’s life expectancy. Factors that could have a negative impact on a patient’s life expectancy include:

  • A history of smoking: Although cigarette smoking does not directly lead to mesothelioma, cigarette smokers who are exposed to asbestos may be more likely to develop asbestos-related lung cancer.
  • Elevated white blood cell count: White blood cell count may indicate the body is fighting against a pre-existing condition or blood cancer. This could make it more difficult for the body to fight mesothelioma.
  • High platelet count: A specific type of high platelet count known as thrombocytosis has been tied to poor prognosis.
  • Low hemoglobin level: Low hemoglobin levels can indicate anemia, a condition many patients face when undergoing chemotherapy. This can cause patients to feel short of breath, lightheaded and tired. These symptoms can vary based on severity.
04. Life Expectancy With Treatment

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy With Treatment

Patients diagnosed with early-stage mesothelioma may be able to undergo aggressive multimodal treatment methods, such as surgical removal of the tumor combined with treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.

Different surgery options can provide patients with improved quality of life and ultimately may extend life expectancy.

Pleural mesothelioma patients may be able to undergo a pneumonectomy (lung-removal surgery) or pleurectomy (cancerous-tissue removal) to remove tumors and impacted tissues. One study found pneumonectomy followed by radiation prevented tumor recurrence in the chest for more than one year in about 80% of patients.

For patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, debulking surgery to remove cancerous tumors can be combined with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) to improve survival. One study showed surgery combined with HIPEC resulted in a 5-year survival rate of 50%.

For elderly patients or those in the late stages of diagnosis, surgery may not be a viable option. When developing a treatment program, a mesothelioma specialist will assess the patient’s health and ability to undergo such treatments.

Clinical trials may be available for eligible patients, including those with late-stage diagnoses, to improve life expectancy. Immunotherapy has shown promise in extending life expectancy and has become a standard treatment option for mesothelioma patients after showing positive results in clinical trials.

05. Life Expectancy Without Treatment

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment

Studies suggest malignant mesothelioma patients who do not undergo treatment live about six months. Patients diagnosed at an early stage may survive longer without treatment. However, as with treated patients, survival can vary based on staging, cell type and location, patient characteristics and other factors.

Patients may decide to forego treatment for a variety of reasons, including if the cancer is in advanced stages. Foregoing treatment can shorten life expectancy. Patients should discuss all their treatment options before making a decision.

06. Improving Lifespan

Can Patients Improve Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?

Malignant mesothelioma life expectancy may be affected by multiple factors. Many of these factors cannot be controlled, including:

  • Age
  • Cell type
  • Gender
  • Mesothelioma location
  • Tumor stage

However, patients can work with a mesothelioma doctor to choose the best treatment approach. Conventional treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy may improve life expectancy.

There are complementary cancer therapies that may also help:

  • Leading a healthy lifestyle with proper exercise and a mesothelioma diet may help patients while undergoing treatment.
  • Undergoing alternative treatment methods as part of a multimodal treatment plan may help patients manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Every patient’s treatment plan is different and may incorporate multiple therapies. Patients may be able to improve life expectancy by consulting with a mesothelioma expert about treatment decisions.

07. Common Questions

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

How long can you live after being diagnosed with mesothelioma?

The average mesothelioma life expectancy is 18 – 31 months. Life expectancy can vary based on other factors, such as mesothelioma type, stage, patient age and overall health.

Can stage 1 mesothelioma be cured?

There is no cure for mesothelioma, though there are treatment options that can help improve prognosis.

How long can you live with advanced mesothelioma?

The average life expectancy for stage 4 mesothelioma ranges from about one to two years. However, life expectancy by stage can vary based on other factors such as treatment approach.

Can mesothelioma life expectancy be improved?

Treatment options may be able to improve a patient’s life expectancy. Multimodal treatments combining surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have shown particular success.

What is the difference between life expectancy and prognosis?

Life expectancy is the length of time a patient is expected to live. Prognosis is how the disease is likely to progress.

What is the longest someone has lived with mesothelioma?

One study reported patients living with mesothelioma for more than 15 years with aggressive multimodal treatment. However, this outcome is rare.

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.

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