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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, stage of cancer, gender and treatment can affect how long people live with mesothelioma.


01. Mesothelioma Survival Rate

What Is Malignant Mesothelioma Survival Rate?

Survival rate references the percentage of people that are alive a certain amount of time after a mesothelioma diagnosis. It is often discussed alongside life expectancy and prognosis. These are all related terms describing survival information.

  • Life expectancy: This refers to the amount of time a patient can expect to live.
  • Prognosis: This describes the overall outlook for a mesothelioma patient. It includes life expectancy and other factors, such as quality of life.

Survival rate and life expectancy data are based on a group of studied mesothelioma cases. Prognosis is unique to individual cases. Together, these pieces of information help patients better understand the outlook of their case.

Cancer survival rates are usually reported in 5-year intervals. Mesothelioma data often includes 1-, 2- and 3-year intervals as well. This pattern of reporting reflects the aggressive nature of the disease.

Survival rates are presented as percentages. For instance, the 5-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma patients who receive treatment is 12%. This means 12 out of 100 people with pleural mesothelioma can expect to live for 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%.

Survival rates may vary depending on a number of different factors. Mesothelioma type, treatment, age, gender and other factors can all affect survival rate.

Historically, a mesothelioma diagnosis was fatal for most people. But scientific advances are changing that. Survival rates have improved, particularly for malignant pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. Survival rates may be climbing because of earlier detection and newer treatments.

How Are Mesothelioma Survival Rates Used?

Survival rates can provide useful information for doctors, patients and mesothelioma researchers. For example, they can be used to:

  • Determine individual treatment options: Survival rates can help determine how a patient may respond to certain treatments. Doctors can look for high survival rates among patients with diagnoses similar to their patient’s. They can then consider the treatments these other patients received.
  • Explore new treatment options: Researchers often compare survival rates between patients receiving established treatments and those receiving newer treatments. This comparison can help them determine if a new treatment might help improve survival.
  • Understand prognosis: Doctors base prognosis on several factors, including mesothelioma type and stage of disease. They can consider survival rates for people with similar case profiles to help determine a patient’s outlook. This data can also help patients understand the likely progression of their case.

However, survival rates do not determine actual survival. They are useful statistics in certain situations. But they are based on a group of patients, not on an individual patient’s unique case. Individual patients may experience different outcomes. Even though mesothelioma often has a low long-term survival rate, it is possible for some patients. Individual mesothelioma survivor’s stories reflect this.

02. Factors Impacting Survival

Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Many factors can affect mesothelioma survival rate statistics. For example, younger mesothelioma patients tend to have better survival rates. Women also tend to survive longer than men.

Factors that may influence mesothelioma survival rate include:

  • Age
  • Blood chemistry
  • Gender
  • Mesothelioma cell type
  • Mesothelioma stage
  • Mesothelioma tumor location
  • Overall patient health
  • Race

These factors are not independent of one another. They may influence each other, resulting in different survival rates. For example, an 89-year-old patient in great health may have better survival than a 28-year-old patient with several serious health conditions.

5-Year Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Age and Gender*
Age at Diagnosis Male Female
<45 32% 53%
45 54 18% 32%
55 64 13% 18%
65 74 7% 16%
75+ 4% 7%

*Includes individuals who did and did not receive treatment

Age

Patient age at the time of diagnosis may impact survival rates. According to data, younger patients have higher 5-year survival rates than older patients.

This higher survival rate may be the result of differences in the overall health of younger versus older patients. Older patients may have existing health conditions or poorer overall health. These factors may limit treatment options, potentially decreasing survival rates for older patients.

1-Year Mesothelioma Survival by Age
Under 50 years 66%
50 to 64 years 55%
65+ years 37%
75+ years 31%

Gender

Biological sex may also affect survival rates. Female mesothelioma patients tend to have better overall survival rates than male patients. Some theories that try to explain this difference include:

  • Estrogen: Some researchers suggest that estrogen in the bloodstream may interact with tumor cells. This may contribute to higher survival rates among patients with estrogen receptors on their tumors.
  • Type of mesothelioma common in women: Women are more likely to develop peritoneal mesothelioma than pleural mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma has a higher survival rate than pleural mesothelioma.

Gender is just one factor that may contribute to survival. A mesothelioma specialist can help patients understand how this and other factors may affect survival.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Gender
1-Year Survival 3-Year Survival 5-Year Survival
Female 49% 24% 16%
Male 40% 13% 7%

Mesothelioma Cell Type

Mesothelioma cell type may affect survival rates because each cell type responds differently to treatment. There are three main types of mesothelioma cells: epithelial, sarcomatoid and biphasic.

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. This may be because sarcomatoid cells are less responsive to treatment. Biphasic mesothelioma is a combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cell types. Survival rate for biphasic mesothelioma varies according to which cell type is dominant.

Pleural Mesothelioma 2-Year Survival Rate by Cell Type*
2-Year Survival
Epithelioid 40%
Sarcomatoid 10%
Biphasic 19%

*All data in this table indicates survival rate with treatment

Peritoneal Mesothelioma 5-Year Survival by Cell Type*
5-Year Survival
Epithelioid 35%
Sarcomatoid & biphasic 75%

*All data in this table indicates survival rate with treatment

Mesothelioma Stage

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

Survival rates by stage may also vary depending on the staging system used. There are two main staging systems:

  • SEER staging system: SEER stands for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results. It is a nationwide program that tracks cancer statistics. The program divides cancer into three stages: localized, regional and distant. These terms describe how much of the cancer has remained localized or has spread to other parts of the body.
  • TNM staging system: TNM stands for tumor, node and metastasis. Medical publications commonly use this system. It separates cancer into stages numbered one through four. Stages 1 and 2 mesothelioma are likely localized and can be targeted with aggressive treatment. Stage 3 and 4 mesothelioma have likely spread to other parts of the body and may be more difficult to treat.

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.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival by TNM Stage*
1-Year Survival 2-Year Survival 5-Year Survival
Stage 1 75% 41% 33%
Stage 2 70% 39% 9%
Stage 3 62% 29% 6%
Stage 4 52% 24% 4%

*All data in this table indicates survival rate with treatment

Tumor Location

One of the most important indicators of patient survival rate is tumor location. Where mesothelioma originates in the body can determine viable treatment options. This, in turn, can affect how long a person with mesothelioma lives. The most common mesothelioma locations are the lining around the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) and the lining around the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma). Depending on tumor location, survival can range from months to years following diagnosis. In general, peritoneal mesothelioma has a more favorable survival rate.

Mesothelioma may occur in other places in rare cases, including the lining around the heart and lining around the testes. These rare types of mesothelioma have only a small amount of data behind their survival statistics. This can make drawing broad conclusions based on their survival rates difficult.

Pleural vs. Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates*
1-Year Survival 5-Year Survival
Pleural mesothelioma 73% 12%
Peritoneal mesothelioma 92% 65%

*All data in this table indicates survival rate with treatment

Other Factors Impacting Survival

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

  • Genetics: People with the biomarker BRCA1-associated protein-1 (BAP1) may live for longer with mesothelioma. Detection of this biomarker is associated with longer survival rates.
  • Blood chemistry: 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. This includes both biological and lifestyle factors that may negatively impact a person’s health. For example, patients with a history of smoking may have lower survival rates than non-smokers.
  • Race: According to SEER data from 2009 – 2015, black patients had a 5-year survival rate of 17%. Comparatively, white patients had a 5-year survival rate of 10%. However, the reason for this difference is still largely unstudied. In general, mesothelioma is less well-documented among black people than white people. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions about survival rates and race.

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

03. Survival Rate by Type

Mesothelioma Survival Rate by Type

Type of mesothelioma plays a large role in survival rates. A patient may be expected to survive longer depending on the type of mesothelioma they have. The most common types of mesothelioma are pleural and peritoneal. Therefore, survival rates for these types represent a larger group of patients than rates for rarer types.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lining around the lungs, also known as the pleura. It is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for 80% – 90% of mesothelioma diagnoses.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates With Treatment
1-year survival rate 73%
3-year survival rate 23%
5-year survival rate 12%
10-year survival rate 5%

Patients with pleural mesothelioma who receive treatment tend to live longer than those who do not receive treatment. Pleural mesothelioma is commonly treated using a multimodal approach. This approach may combine treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation and surgery.

In studies, two surgeries have extended pleural mesothelioma life expectancy in combination with other treatments. Common pleural mesothelioma surgeries include:

Combining these surgeries with other treatments may help further improve life expectancy.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the tissue lining the abdomen, also known as the peritoneum. This type of mesothelioma has some of the best survival rates among people with this rare cancer.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates With Treatment
1-year survival rate 92%
3-year survival rate 74%
5-year survival rate 65%
10-year survival rate 39%

Patients tend to live longer if they receive treatment for their peritoneal mesothelioma. A combination of surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is standard. HIPEC is a heated chemotherapy wash applied to the abdominal cavity.

Peritoneal mesothelioma may also be treated with immunotherapy, radiation or emerging treatment options.

Rare Forms of Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma are the most common mesothelioma types. Other types include pericardial and testicular mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the lining around the heart and accounts for less than 1% of all diagnoses. Testicular mesothelioma develops in the membrane lining the testes. It accounts for less than 1% of all diagnoses.

Data is currently thin but appears to show that testicular mesothelioma has a favorable survival rate. This is due to the location of the cancer and treatment options. Data about pericardial mesothelioma shows a high rate of mortality. But the rareness of these diseases means the survival rates reflect only a small group of patients. This makes it difficult to draw broad conclusions about how long a person with these types of mesothelioma may live.

Survival Rates of Rare Types of Mesothelioma
Pericardial* Testicular**
1-year survival rate 26% Not reported
3-year survival rate 14% Not reported
5-year survival rate 9% 58%
10-year survival rate Not reported 45%

*Pericardial data indicates survival rate with treatment
**Testicular data counts disease-specific survival, meaning patient deaths are only counted if they died of testicular mesothelioma

04. Improving Survival

Improving Mesothelioma Cancer Survival

Mesothelioma treatment may be the most influential factor in a patient’s survival. Studies show multimodal therapy can improve survival better than individual treatments. The type of treatment a patient may receive depends on their individual diagnosis. A multimodal approach may include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or immunotherapy. Patients may also be eligible for experimental treatments through clinical trials.

Treatment options are largely dependent on the type and stage of mesothelioma. Doctors may be able to treat stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma with aggressive surgery. Surgical removal of tumors and cancerous tissues combined with other forms of treatment can improve survival.

Those with a later stage diagnosis may not have the same surgical options. By stages 3 and 4, the cancer has typically spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs and is difficult to remove. Patients ineligible for surgery may receive chemotherapy, radiation and/or immunotherapy.

Mesothelioma doctors can tailor treatment plans to a patient’s individual diagnosis. These individualized plans can help give a patient the best chance of improved survival.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Treatment Type*
Treatment Type 1-Year Survival 2-Year Survival 3-Year Survival
Multimodal treatment: Chemotherapy, surgery and repeat chemotherapy for certain patients 93% Not reported 65%
Multimodal treatment: Chemotherapy, surgery, then radiation Not reported 50% Not reported
Chemotherapy alone 58% 27% 15%
Immunotherapy: Opdivo® +Yervoy® 68% 41% 23%

*Information in this table is aggregated from a number of studies. “Not reported” indicates areas where certain survival rates were not reported in certain studies.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Treatment Type*
Treatment Type 1-Year Survival 3-Year Survival 5-Year Survival
Multimodal treatment: Surgery and HIPEC 83% 62% 52%
Multimodal treatment: Surgery, HIPEC, EPIC and NIPEC Not reported Not reported 75%

*Information in this table is aggregated from a number of studies. “Not reported” indicates areas where certain survival rates were not reported in certain studies.

Other Factors Impacting Survival Rates

Treatment is generally the best way to improve survival for mesothelioma patients. Patients also have other options available that may impact survival and improve quality of life. Diet, nutrition and alternative medicines may all provide certain benefits for mesothelioma patients. These other options are all seen as supplements, not replacements, for more standard therapy. There is little evidence that they may improve survival rates.

Spotlight: Traits of Patients With Extraordinary Survival

Mesothelioma patients may be able to look to past cancer survivors for ways to improve their survival. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently did just that by looking at patients who lived at least three times as long as expected. The analysis of these exceptional responders included a small number of mesothelioma patients. NCI researchers identified several common trends in these patients.

  • They changed their diets. Half of exceptional responders changed their diet. Most started eating less carbs and meat and more fruits and veggies.
  • They got moving. A third of exceptional responders started exercising or increased their exercise levels. Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi were the most common choices.
  • They prayed. Two thirds of exceptional responders practiced some form of prayer.
  • They took supplements. About half of exceptional responders took vitamins or supplements. Multivitamins and fish oils were common.
  • They used alternative therapies. More than half of exceptional responders received some form of complementary or alternative medicine. Massage, acupuncture and meditation were the most common practices.

Researchers do not yet know which, if any, of these traits caused exceptional responders to live longer than expected. As such, mesothelioma patients who emulate these traits may not see the same longevity. Still, patients may want to discuss these diet and lifestyle options with their oncologists. Together, the doctor and patient may find options that enhance the main treatment.

Source: Translational Oncology

Diet and nutrition are important before, during and after mesothelioma treatment. A good diet may help maintain overall health and quality of life. Patients who are in better health are more likely to be eligible for surgery, which may help improve survival. Dietitians can recommend the best foods for mesothelioma patients.

Alternative treatments are also available to patients. These may include dietary supplements, exercise and/or meditation, among other things. They may help manage symptoms and offer comfort to patients.

05. Mesothelioma Survivors

Mesothelioma Survivor Stories

Mesothelioma survival rates provide a general outlook on survival but don’t define individual cases. Recent years have seen improvements in diagnostic tools and treatment techniques. 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

A mesothelioma diagnosis can feel isolating. Patients may find comfort in reaching out to the supportive survivor community. Having a support system may help improve their quality of life before, during and after treatment.

06. Common Questions

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Can you survive mesothelioma cancer?

There is currently no cure for mesothelioma. However, some patients have been able to achieve remission after undergoing treatments. Some have even achieved long-term survival. Clinical trials have also allowed patients to try promising experimental treatments.

How many people have survived mesothelioma?

While long-term mesothelioma survivors exist, their exact number is not known. The survival rate for patients varies based on several factors, including mesothelioma type. For the most common types, about 73% – 92% of mesothelioma patients live longer than one year. About 12% – 65% live longer than five years. Patients can discuss the various factors affecting survival with their doctor. An experienced mesothelioma doctor can determine the best path forward based on a patient’s diagnosis.

Can you survive pleural mesothelioma?

Recent data indicates around 12% of pleural mesothelioma patients survive at least five years. Outliving initial survival estimates is possible. Pleural mesothelioma survivor Heather Von St. James was given 15 months to live, but now celebrates over a decade and a half of survivorship.

What is the survival rate for being diagnosed with mesothelioma?

The two most common types of mesothelioma are pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. The 5-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is about 12%. Peritoneal mesothelioma has a 5-year survival rate of about 65%. Other types of mesothelioma, such as testicular and pericardial mesothelioma, are rare. Accordingly, there is less information about survival rates for these diseases.

How do doctors improve mesothelioma survival rate?

Doctors often recommend multimodal treatment as a way to improve mesothelioma survival. In one study, 65% of pleural mesothelioma patients lived at least 3 years. These patients received a multimodal combination of chemotherapy and surgery. In another study, peritoneal mesothelioma patients had a 5-year survival rate of 75%. Patients in this study received a combination of surgery and localized chemotherapy.

What is the mesothelioma survival rate after surgery?

Surgery is often part of the most successful multimodal mesothelioma treatment plans. 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.