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Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Expert Fact Checked

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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Mesothelioma survival rate is the percentage of patients who live for a given period of time after diagnosis. Pleural mesothelioma has a 5-year survival rate of 12%. Peritoneal mesothelioma has a 5-year survival rate of about 65%. Age, gender and stage of cancer affect survival rates.


01. Mesothelioma Survival Rate

What Is Malignant Mesothelioma Survival Rate?

Survival rate references the percentage of people that survive for a certain amount of time after diagnosis.

Survival rates are presented as percentages. For instance, the 5-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is 12%. This means 12 out of 100 people with pleural mesothelioma will live for at least five years following diagnosis.

For the most common forms of mesothelioma, between 73% and 92% of patients live longer than one year. Five-year survival ranges widely from 12% – 65%. Cancer survival rates are typically measured with five-year statistics. However, mesothelioma data is often also calculated in one-year and three-year intervals, due to the aggressive nature of the disease.

Survival rates may vary on a case-by-case basis due to mesothelioma type, age of patient and treatment, among other factors. While discussing survival rates, patients may hear other related terms, such as prognosis and life expectancy.

02. Factors Impacting Survival

Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Mesothelioma survival rates have improved in recent years, particularly for malignant pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. Patients are living longer due to new diagnostic methods that aid in early detection. The greater efficacy of new treatments and treatment combinations has also improved patient survival.

However, there are many factors that can influence survival rates, such as tumor location, age, gender, staging and other patient characteristics.

Tumor Location

One of the most important indicators of patient survival rate is tumor location. The area of the body where the mesothelioma cancer originates helps determine viable treatment options and thus survival rate. Depending on tumor location, patients who receive standard treatment may survive for six months to more than five years following diagnosis.

65% of peritoneal mesothelioma patients achieve survival of five years. Comparatively, 9% of pericardial mesothelioma patients survive for five years or longer.

Testicular mesothelioma survival rates are the most favorable, due to tumor location and treatment options. Peritoneal mesothelioma also has a more favorable survival rate, as treatments have become more effective in recent years. Pleural mesothelioma develops near internal organs. This complicates treatment, leading to less favorable life expectancy. Pericardial mesothelioma has the least favorable survival rates, as it impacts the heart and has limited treatment options.

Age

Patient age may have an impact on survival rates. In studies, younger patients have higher 5-year survival rates than older patients.

This variance may stem from differences in overall health between younger versus older patients. Older patients often have existing health conditions. These conditions may limit treatment options, potentially decreasing survival rates for older patients.

Source: SEER*Explorer
1-Year Mesothelioma Survival by Age
<50 years 81.1%
50 to 64 years 63.4%
65+ years 44.6%
75+ years 38.5%

Gender

Gender may also affect survival rates. Female mesothelioma patients tend to have better overall survival rates than men. Researchers suggest this survival advantage may be due to estrogen and estrogen receptors.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Gender
1-Year 3-Year 5-Year
Female 50.6% 31.3% 11.8%
Male 49.6% 13.4% 10.2%

Additionally, women may be more likely to develop peritoneal mesothelioma than pleural. The peritoneal form has a more favorable survival rate than other main types of mesothelioma.

5-Year Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Age and Gender
Age at Diagnosis Male Female
Ages <45 37.7% 58.6%
Ages 45 – 54 12.9% 37.2%
Ages 55 – 64 9.8% 17%
Ages 65 – 74 8% 14.7%
Ages 75+ 2.8% 6.1%

Staging

The stage of mesothelioma at the time of diagnosis also influences survival rates. Early detection may be the best way to improve a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis.

1-Year Survival Rates for Pleural Mesothelioma by TNM Stage

  • Stage 1: 75%
  • Stage 2: 70%
  • Stage 3: 62%
  • Stage 4: 52%

Survival rates by stage may vary due to the staging system used. The tumor, node, metastasis (TNM) staging system is commonly used in medical publications. It separates mesothelioma cases into four stages based upon several factors.

Early-stage mesothelioma diagnoses have higher survival rates than late-stage diagnoses. If diagnosed at stage 1 or 2, the disease is likely localized and can be targeted with surgery and other aggressive treatments.

When diagnosed at stage 3 or stage 4, the cancer has likely spread to distant areas of the body and is more difficult to treat.

SEER versus TNM Staging

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program tracks nationwide cancer statistics. In tracking those statistics, SEER uses its own staging system. The SEER system differs from the TNM system used in medical publications.

SEER staging recognizes only three mesothelioma stages:

  • Localized: Tumors are entirely contained within the pleura.
  • Regional: Tumors have spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
  • Distant: Tumors have spread to distant areas such as the bones or liver.

The biggest difference between SEER staging and TNM staging is the number of stages included in the system. SEER has three stages. TNM has four stages. As such, TNM staging may provide more personalized information than SEER staging. Doctors may be able to more accurately predict prognosis from TNM staging than SEER staging.

Patients should discuss staging and prognosis questions with a mesothelioma doctor. The doctor can help patients understand how staging may affect their mesothelioma prognosis.

5-Year SEER Staging Survival Rates for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
SEER Stage 5-Year Survival Rates, 2011 – 2017
Localized 20.4%
Regional 16.2%
Distant 8.1%
Unstaged 18.4%

Other Factors

In addition to tumor location, stage of disease and patient age and gender, there are a variety of other factors that impact survival rates, including:

  • Cell type: Epithelioid mesothelioma generally has the highest survival rates of the cell types, as it responds best to treatment. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma has the least favorable survival rate. Sarcomatoid cells are also less responsive to treatment. Survival rate for biphasic mesothelioma, a combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cell types, varies according to which cell type is dominant.
  • Genetics: The presence of biomarker BRCA1-associated protein-1 (BAP1) has shown longer survival rates. Through testing for the biomarker, doctors are able to distinguish epithelial mesothelioma (those with the biomarker) from biphasic mesothelioma. This understanding of the disease enables precise treatment.
  • Blood counts: High levels of platelets or white blood cells and low hemoglobin levels have been shown to negatively impact mesothelioma survival rates. According to research, elevated white blood cell counts lead to lower survival rates for patients with non-epithelial mesothelioma.
  • Overall health: Poor health indicators may be associated with lower survival rates.
  • Race: About 95% of all mesothelioma diagnoses occur among white individuals. However, black patients have a more favorable survival rate. According to Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data from 2009 – 2015, black patients had a 5-year survival rate of 16.8%. Comparatively, white patients had a 5-year survival rate of 10%.

Ultimately, patients should discuss their diagnosis with their physician to better understand survival expectations for their individual cases.

03. Improving Survival

Improving Mesothelioma Survival

Many factors negatively impact mesothelioma survival rates, but there are ways patients can improve their survival.

Mesothelioma treatment is the most influential factor in a patient’s survival.

For instance, peritoneal mesothelioma patients have found success with a combination of surgery with a heated chemotherapy wash. The chemotherapy wash, known as hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), has improved 5-year peritoneal mesothelioma survival rates to at least 50%. Some studies have noted a 5-year survival rate of 67% or higher.

Pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo aggressive pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) or extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgeries generally have a higher rate of survival than those who receive chemotherapy alone. Both surgeries are common in multimodal treatment plans. A P/D procedure removes the cancerous lung lining in an effort to prevent metastasis and increase life expectancy. An EPP procedure is more radical and involves removing the entire mesothelioma-impacted lung, along with other impacted organs and tissues.

Emerging treatments, such as immunotherapy, tested in clinical trials have also helped improve mesothelioma survival rates.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Treatment Type

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Treatment

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rate by Treatment

The treatment options available to patients are largely dependent on the type and stage of mesothelioma. For those with stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma, aggressive surgery to remove tumors and cancerous tissues or organs can lead to higher survival rates.

Those with a later stage diagnosis may not have the same surgical options available. By stages 3 and 4, the cancer has typically spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs and is difficult to remove. However, chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments may still be beneficial and extend survival.

04. Mesothelioma Survivors

Mesothelioma Survivor Stories

Mesothelioma survival rates 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. These milestones have led to more long-term mesothelioma survivors. Mesothelioma survivors offer hope to patients and their loved ones following diagnosis.

Heather Von St. James

Mesothelioma Survivor Heather Von St. JamesHeather defied her 15-month prognosis after undergoing aggressive extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Each year on the anniversary of her surgery Heather celebrates life with friends and family. Now a pleural mesothelioma survivor of more than a decade, Heather uses her experience for patient advocacy and the fight to ban asbestos.

Learn MoreLearn More About Heather’s Story
Jim Dykstra

Peritoneal mesothelioma survivor Jim DykstraJim has been living with peritoneal mesothelioma since 2013, exceeding the average life expectancy for this type of cancer. He was treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Jim is now treated with Keytruda®, which has proven successful in extending his survival. He advises all mesothelioma patients to maintain their sense of humor throughout treatment.

Learn MoreLearn More About Jim’s Story
Mavis Nye

Mesothelioma survivor Mavis NyeMavis was exposed to asbestos through her husband’s work clothing. Following her diagnosis, Mavis was given three months to live. Mavis surpassed her three-month life expectancy after participating in a Keytruda® clinical trial. She continues to advocate for asbestos awareness and help others diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Learn MoreLearn More About Mavis’ Story
Paul Cowley

Mesothelioma survivor Paul CowleyPaul faced a malignant pleural mesothelioma diagnosis with 12 – 24 months to live. He overcame this prognosis after undergoing two aggressive surgeries in a six-month span. The procedures removed his tumors and affected surrounding tissues. Paul continues to raise awareness about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos exposure.

Learn MoreLearn More About Paul’s Story

Through aggressive treatments and emerging techniques, patients are able to live longer and become advocates for others. Mesothelioma survivor stories offer hope to those diagnosed with this disease.

05. Common Questions

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Can you survive mesothelioma cancer?

Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, some patients have been able to achieve remission after undergoing treatments. Clinical trials have also allowed patients to try promising experimental treatments.

How many people have survived mesothelioma?

The survival rate for patients varies based on mesothelioma type. For the most common types, 73% – 92% of mesothelioma patients live longer than one year. About 12% – 65% live longer than five years.

Can you survive pleural mesothelioma?

Though the prognosis for pleural mesothelioma is poor, there are survivors. Recent data indicates around 12% of pleural mesothelioma patients survive at least five years.

What is the survival rate after being diagnosed with mesothelioma?

The 5-year survival rate tells us what percentage of patients live at least five years after diagnosis. The 5-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is about 12%. This means 12 out of every 100 mesothelioma patients live at least five years after diagnosis.

How do doctors improve mesothelioma survival rate?

Doctors often recommend multimodal treatment as a way to improve mesothelioma survival. Treatment with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation achieved a 5-year survival of 21% in epithelioid mesothelioma. The combination treatment nearly doubled the 5-year survival rate reported in other studies.

What is the mesothelioma survival rate after surgery?

About half of mesothelioma patients survive at least two years after receiving surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation. This approach nearly doubled the 5-year survival rate reported for other treatment plans.

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