Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma life expectancy is a prediction a doctor makes regarding how long a patient can expect to live after a mesothelioma diagnosis. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma is 12-21 months, however, many factors influence this number, including mesothelioma type, stage at diagnosis, and the patient’s overall health. Doctors work with patients to improve their life expectancy through personalized treatment plans.

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What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?

The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is approximately 12-21 months and varies based on factors like stage at diagnosis, mesothelioma cell type, and what type of mesothelioma the patient has.

Mesothelioma life expectancy, which is the predicted length of time a patient is expected to live after their diagnosis, is part of a patient’s overall mesothelioma prognosis.

Patients who respond well to mesothelioma surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments may increase their life span by several months or even years.

Life Expectancy vs Survival Rate

When giving a patient their prognosis, doctors may also mention mesothelioma survival rate, which is the percentage of people still alive after a particular amount of time. In mesothelioma patients, this rate is usually given in 1-, 3-, or 5-year increments.

Did You Know?

A 2017 literature review studied thousands of mesothelioma patients and found a 1-year survival rate of 54%.

On the other hand, life expectancy may refer to a group of people or the individual patient and is usually given as a specific amount of time that patient is expected to live after diagnosis. In mesothelioma patients, this time span is usually measured in months.

Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Patients with pleural mesothelioma can expect to live roughly 12 months after diagnosis. However, the stage at which they are diagnosed may influence life expectancy dramatically.

Stage 1 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Stage 1 mesothelioma is contained to the lining (pleura) of one lung, giving doctors the best chance to remove the tumor through life-extending surgery and other treatments like chemotherapy.

Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo surgery have a median life expectancy of 22.2 months.

Stage 2 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

During stage 2 mesothelioma, the tumor remains on one side of the body but has started spreading beyond the lung lining into deeper tissues and nearby lymph nodes. Life-extending surgeries are usually still available.

Stage 2 pleural mesothelioma patients who receive surgery have a median life expectancy of 20 months.

Stage 3 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

In stage 3 mesothelioma, the cancer has spread even farther in the lung tissue and surrounding area. It is contained to nearby lymph nodes. Some patients in otherwise good health may still be eligible for life-extending surgery, but most treatment options are palliative in nature.

Stage 3 pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo surgery have a median life expectancy of about 17.9 months.

Stage 4 Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

By the time a patient develops stage 4 mesothelioma, the tumor has spread to the other side of their chest and to distant areas in their body (metastasis).

Most treatments at this stage aim to ease symptoms, although chemotherapy, clinical trials, and/or other treatments may still help some patients live longer.

The median life expectancy for a patient diagnosed with stage 4 pleural mesothelioma is 14.9 months with treatment.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The life expectancy for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma is around 51.5 months. Patients who are good candidates for the aggressive cytoreduction with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) procedure have a median survival of 53 months.

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms can be vague, making the disease difficult to diagnose early.

However, peritoneal mesothelioma tends to spread more slowly than other types, can be treated more aggressively because it is not near vital organs, and tends to remain in the abdomen even after it has metastasized.

Life Expectancy of Rare Types of Mesothelioma

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma has the shortest life expectancy of all types, averaging just 6 months. That said, it is extremely rare, making up less than 1% of all mesothelioma cases.

Most cases of pericardial mesothelioma aren’t discovered until after an autopsy has been performed. When patients do receive a diagnosis for this cancer, it has typically already progressed to an advanced stage. This, and the cancer’s location near the delicate heart, make it difficult to treat.

Testicular Mesothelioma

The median life expectancy for testicular mesothelioma after surgery is around 23 months. With only a few hundred cases ever reported, testicular mesothelioma is often diagnosed while a patient is undergoing surgery for what is mistaken as a hernia.

Patients who receive an orchiectomy (removal of the testes and any nearby cancerous tissue) only saw their cancer return around 11% of the time.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Factors

Factors affecting life expectancy include:

  • Cell type (histology)
  • Mesothelioma stage
  • Mesothelioma type
  • Overall patient health
  • Patient age
  • Patient sex
  • Treatment
  • Year diagnosed

With so many factors influencing life expectancy, it can be difficult for a mesothelioma specialist to predict how long a patient will actually live. However, a few important factors have a particularly strong influence on life expectancy.

Mesothelioma Type

Each malignant mesothelioma type develops in a different area of the body, and some places are harder to treat than others. In turn, the type of mesothelioma a patient develops can greatly affect life expectancy.

For example, patients with pericardial mesothelioma (affects the lining of the delicate heart) have a lower life expectancy, while patients with peritoneal mesothelioma (affects the lining of the abdomen) have the highest.

Stage

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the only type that is well-studied enough to be classified using an official staging system. However, as a general rule, the earlier a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, the longer they can expect to survive.

Stage at diagnosis may affect mesothelioma life expectancy because early-stage patients are better candidates for potentially life-extending surgery. Additionally, early-stage mesothelioma is further from metastasis.

About two-thirds of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed after their cancer is already advanced, however.

Cell Type

Mesothelioma is grouped into three main mesothelioma cell types based on how the cancer cells look and behave.

The type of cancer cells (epithelial mesothelioma cells, biphasic cells, or sarcomatoid cells) that make up a patient’s mesothelioma tumors can have a major impact on a patient’s life expectancy.

Mesothelioma Cell TypeMedian Life Expectancy
Epithelioid Mesothelioma12-24 months
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma6 months
Biphasic Mesothelioma12 months

Other Life Expectancy Factors

Mesothelioma life expectancy may be affected by many factors outside of a patient’s cancer traits. Various studies have shown characteristics of the patients, themselves, may influence life expectancy — sometimes considerably.

Other mesothelioma life expectancy factors include:

  • Age: Mesothelioma patients under 45 tend to have the longest life expectancy after diagnosis.
  • Sex: Women with mesothelioma are consistently shown to live longer on average than their male counterparts. This may be because men tend to have heavier asbestos exposure or because women tend to develop the disease at a younger age. Some studies also indicated that estrogen may play a role.
  • Overall health: Mesothelioma patients who are in otherwise good health and do not smoke tend to have a longer life expectancy on average. Such patients are more fit for life-extending surgeries and tend to remain healthier longer.

Treatment to Improve Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

One of the best ways patients can improve their life expectancy by months or even years is by working with a specialist at a top mesothelioma cancer treatment center.

These facilities employ highly experienced doctors who can perform aggressive mesothelioma treatment options not available at all cancer centers.

Surgery

When mesothelioma is diagnosed at an early enough stage and a patient is otherwise fit, doctors usually recommend mesothelioma surgery to physically remove as much of the cancer as possible. Surgeons generally pair surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Surgeries aimed at improving life expectancy include:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
  • Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D)
  • Cytoreduction with HIPEC

For patients who are diagnosed too late to undergo curative surgeries, mesothelioma chemotherapy usually becomes the primary treatment.

Multimodal Treatment Plans

Most mesothelioma specialists agree that combining more than one treatment (multimodal therapy) is the most effective way to increase survival time. In fact, the best chemotherapy results are currently achieved when paired with surgery, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Clinical Trials

Mesothelioma clinical trials are controlled research studies done to develop and improve emerging treatments, such as gene therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.

The medical advancements made through these trials provide mesothelioma patients, especially those with late-stage cancer, opportunities to extend their life expectancy.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment

The average survival of cancer patients who do not receive mesothelioma treatment is roughly 12 months. Some mesothelioma patients choose to or are eligible to receive only palliative care, which is designed to help with symptom management and improving quality of life.

Patients who don’t qualify for or who don’t want to undergo aggressive treatments are encouraged to talk with their oncologist and care team about their options.

Next Steps for Improving Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Treating mesothelioma as early as possible offers patients the greatest chance of extending their life expectancy. To access these treatments, work with a mesothelioma doctor who has experience performing various treatment options and knowledge about clinical trials.

As treatment technology continues to advance, patients have more opportunities than ever to try and live beyond mesothelioma survival statistics.

If you or your loved one is interested in pursuing treatment for mesothelioma, reach out to our team of Patient Advocates at (888) 360-4215 for help finding a specialist near you.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Reviewed by:Dr. Assuntina Sacco

Board-Certified Oncologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Assuntina Sacco, MD is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Moores Cancer Center, where she also serves as the Medical Director of Infusion Services. She is a board-certified medical oncologist trained to treat all solid tumor types, with the use of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and clinical trials.

Dr. Assuntina Sacco is an independently paid medical reviewer.

Stephanie KiddWritten by:

Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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