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Mesothelioma Survival Rate

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This page was medically reviewed by Dr. 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.

Dr. James Stevenson, M.D. Thoracic Medical Oncologist

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Dr. James Stevenson, M.D.

Mesothelioma survival rate is defined as the percentage of people who live for a given period of time following diagnosis. The 1-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is 73%, which speaks to the aggressive nature of the disease. Similarly, only about 12% of pleural mesothelioma patients survive for five years following diagnosis. A patient’s age, gender and stage of cancer impact survival rates. The best way to improve mesothelioma survival rates is through treatment.


01. Overview

What Is 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.

Approximately 55% of all mesothelioma patients live longer than six months, while roughly 35% live longer than one year. On average, 9% survive five years or longer. 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.

Defining Terms

Mesothelioma Prognosis IconPrognosis

An estimate of how an individual’s disease is expected to progress and develop, along with the likelihood of survival. 

Life Expectancy

How long a patient can expect to survive with or without undergoing treatment. This may change with treatment and other developments.

02. Impacting Factors

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 two years following diagnosis.

65% of peritoneal mesothelioma patients achieve survival of five years. Comparatively, 23% 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 and pleural mesothelioma have less favorable survival rates, as the tumors develop near internal organs, which complicates treatment. Pericardial mesothelioma has the least favorable survival rates, as it impacts the heart and has limited treatment options.

Age and Gender

Patient age and gender affect mesothelioma survival rates. On average, younger patients have a higher 5-year survival rate than older patients.

Mesothelioma doctors and researchers believe this variance is due to the overall health of younger individuals compared to those above 55 years old. Older patients tend to have other diseases and conditions that may complicate their health and ability to withstand aggressive treatment options.

Female mesothelioma patients also have better overall survival rates than men. Researchers believe this difference in survival rate is due to the greater incidence of secondary asbestos exposure among women than men. Secondary asbestos exposure occurs when asbestos fibers are brought home on the workers’ hair, skin and clothing. Additionally, women are more likely to develop peritoneal mesothelioma, which has a more favorable survival rate than other forms of the cancer.

5-Year Mesothelioma Survival Rate 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 is the best way to improve a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis.

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.

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 because the cells spread quickly. 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 factors, such as being overweight or having a compromised immune system, often result in 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.

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 Rate by Treatment Type

Mesothelioma Survival Rate by Treatment Type

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 Survivors

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 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 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 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 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. On average, around 55% of patients have lived longer than six months, while around 35% have lived longer than one year. About 9% have lived five years or longer.

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.

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