Approximately 55% of mesothelioma patients live longer than six months, while roughly 35% live longer than one year. Only 9% survive longer than five years. Testicular and peritoneal patients typically have the best survival rates, followed by pleural and pericardial mesothelioma.
Cancer survival rates are typically measured with 5-year statistics, but mesothelioma statistics often reference 1-year and 3-year statistics as the disease is rarely cured. Survival rates can help patients better understand their prognosis and also help specialists identify potential risk factors driving patient life expectancy. Survival time varies for mesothelioma patients based on type, age, treatment and other factors.
Survival rate references a number of people that survived for a certain amount of time after their diagnosis. Survival rate is different from life expectancy in that life expectancy refers to the average length of time patients with mesothelioma live. Life expectancy is usually referenced in years or months and depends on a variety of factors like staging, mesothelioma location, cell type and patient characteristics. Together, both of these statistics can provide information about an individual’s prognosis.
Survival Rates for Mesothelioma
In recent years, mesothelioma survival rates have improved, particularly for pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. New diagnostic methods to detect the disease early, as well as new treatments, are helping cancer patients live longer. However, there are many factors that can influence survival rates that must be taken into account, such as age, gender, type and other patient characteristics.
Age and Gender
Mesothelioma survival rates are impacted by the patient’s age and gender. On average, younger patients have a higher 5-year survival rate than older patients, and women have better overall survival rates than men. This is true for most cancers, as well. Mesothelioma specialists and researchers believe this is due to the overall better health of younger individuals, whereas older patients tend to have other diseases and conditions that could complicate their health and ability to withstand treatment. In relation to gender, more men held asbestos occupations at the height of its use, resulting in higher amounts of long-term exposure.
|Age at Diagnosis||Male||Female|
|Ages 45 - 54||12.9%||37.2%|
|Ages 55 - 64||9.8%||17%|
|Ages 65 - 74||8%||14.7%|
The stage of mesothelioma at the time of diagnosis is also an influential factor to survival rates. Early detection is the best way to improve a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis, and early-stage diagnoses have substantially higher survival rates than late-stage diagnoses. When diagnosed at stage 3 or stage 4, the cancer has likely spread to distant areas of the body and is therefore more difficult to target and treat. If diagnosed at stage 1 or 2, the disease is likely localized and can be targeted with surgical resection and other aggressive treatments.
In addition to age, gender and staging, there are a variety of other factors that impact survival rates, including:
- Location: Testicular mesothelioma survival rates are the most favorable, followed by peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma has the least favorable survival rates.
- Cell Type: Epithelioid mesothelioma generally has the highest survival rates, followed by biphasic mesothelioma and sarcomatoid mesothelioma.
- Genetics: The presence of biomarker BRCA1-associated protein-1 (BAP1) has shown longer survival rates.
- Lifestyle Factors: Patients with a history of smoking have lower survival rates than non-smokers.
- Blood Counts: High levels of platelets or white blood cells and low hemoglobin levels have been shown to negatively impact mesothelioma survival rates.
- Overall Health: Poor health factors like being overweight or having a compromised immune system often result in lower survival rates.
Ultimately, patients should discuss their individual diagnosis with their physician, along with impacting factors, to better understand where they fall in terms of survival expectations.
Improving Mesothelioma Survival
Though there are many factors that can negatively impact survival rates, there are also ways that patients can improve their survival after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Treatment is the most important factor in extending life expectancy following diagnosis. For instance, a newer treatment combination of surgery with a heated chemotherapy wash known as hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) has improved 5-year peritoneal mesothelioma survival rates to at least 50%. Other types of mesothelioma have also seen some improvement in survival, as clinical trials continue to show hope in improving prognosis with treatments like immunotherapy.
|Mesothelioma Survival Rate by Treatment Type|
|Chemotherapy Only||2 years||19%|
|Pleurectomy / Decortication (P/D)||2 years||40%|
|Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)||2 years||37%|
|Peritoneal cytoreductive surgery (CRS) + Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC)||5 years||50%|
The treatment options available are largely dependent on the type and stage of mesothelioma. For those with stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma, undergoing aggressive treatment to remove tumors and tissues or organs containing cancer cells can lead to higher survival rates. Those with a later stage diagnosis may not have the same surgical options available, as the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs. However, chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments could still be beneficial and extend survival.
Pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo aggressive pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) or extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgeries, both common in multimodal treatment plans, generally have a much higher rate of survival than those who receive chemotherapy alone. For peritoneal mesothelioma, patients who undergo cytoreductive surgery (CRS) with HIPEC have significantly higher rates of survival compared to patients who are unable to undergo surgery. When combined with systemic chemotherapy as an adjuvant treatment, the 5-year survival rate of patients who undergo CRS + HIPEC can be as high as 67%.
In addition to traditional standard mesothelioma treatments, patients may choose to find clinical trials to potentially extend their life expectancy, along with improving and maintaining better overall health.
Mesothelioma survival rates can provide patients with a general outlook on survival, but don’t define individual cases. Advances in diagnostic tools and treatment techniques have lengthened life expectancies and improved survival rates for mesothelioma patients, while also helping contribute to long-term mesothelioma survivorship.
- Heather Von St. James: Heather defied her 15-month prognosis after undergoing aggressive surgery to remove her cancer. A mesothelioma survivor, Heather uses her experience to offer hope as she advocates for awareness and a full asbestos ban.
- Mavis Nye: Mavis defied her 3-month life expectancy after partaking in a clinical trial using a new immunotherapy drug, Keytruda. She continues to advocate for asbestos awareness and help others diagnosed with mesothelioma, seen through her creation of the Mavis Nye Foundation.
- Paul Cowley: Paul faced a malignant pleural mesothelioma diagnosis with 12 – 24 months to live, but overcame this prognosis after undergoing two aggressive surgeries in a six-month span to remove his tumors and affected surrounding tissues. Paul and his family continue to raise awareness about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos exposure.
These stories show the value in aggressive treatments and emerging techniques. Their stories and the stories of other mesothelioma survivors continue to offer hope to those diagnosed with this disease.
Author: Linda Molinari
Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer AllianceRead about Linda
Reviewer: Dr. James Stevenson
Medical Reviewer and Thoracic Medical OncologistRead about Dr. Stevenson
American Cancer Society. Learn About Cancer: Malignant Mesothelioma.
Baumann F, Flores E, et al. Mesothelioma patients with germline BAP1 mutations have 7-fold improved long-term survival. Cancer Research. 2015;76(2):206-215. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgu227
Faig J, Howard S, et al. Changing Pattern in Malignant Mesothelioma Survival. Translational Oncology. February 2015;8(1):35-39. doi: 10.1016/j.tranon.2014.12.002
Kepenekian V, Elias D, Passot G, et al. Diffuse malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: Evaluation of systemic chemotherapy with comprehensive treatment through the RENAPE Database: Multi-Institutional Retrospective Study. European Journal of Cancer. September 2016;65:69-79. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2016.06.002
Milano MT and Zhang H. Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: A Population-Based Study of Survival. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. November 2010;5(11):1841-1848. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e3181f1cf2b
SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2015. National Cancer Institute.
Oliveira GH, Al-Kindi S, Hoimes C, et al. Characteristics and Survival of Malignant Cardiac Tumors: A 40-Year Analysis of Over 500 Patients. Circulation. October 2015;132:2395-2402. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.016418
Sciarrillo R, Gomez VE, Pennati M, et al. Abstract 332: Spliceosome inhibition as novel strategy against diffuse malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. Cancer Research. July 2016;76(14):Abstract nr 332. doi: 10.1158/1538-7445.AM2016-332