Mesothelioma Survival Rates Overview
We know that looking at mesothelioma survival rates can be discouraging, as this rare cancer has historically seen low survivorship. However, when looking at these numbers, it’s important to consider several things. You should know that no historical numbers or data can absolutely determine how long you’ll survive. Only your mesothelioma specialist can provide you with the most accurate prognosis. In addition, survival rate data has its limitations and flaws. Finally, remember that with new advancements in treatment and research, mesothelioma survival rates are improving—and will likely continue to do so.
- Mesothelioma survival rates have often been described according to one-year survival. As more patients live past this benchmark, rates are increasingly referred to in terms of two-year and five-year survival as well.
- Survival rates can be highly refined by criteria such as age, ethnicity, gender, mesothelioma, cell type (histology) and more.
- Mesothelioma survival rates are showing improvement; survivorship of both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma has increased between 1992 and 2012.
What Are Mesothelioma Survival Rates?
Although the mesothelioma survival rates are lower than we want them to be, even experts’ knowledge of the disease is relatively new compared to some other types of more common cancers. Survivorship of both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma has improved in recent years as more research has been done and leading-edge treatments have been introduced, setting an encouraging precedent for the future. This chart displays the overall mesothelioma survival rates:
|Time After Diagnosis||
Overall Mesothelioma Survival Rate
Survival Rate vs. Life Expectancy
Survival rates are often confused with life expectancy. This is understandable, as they are both terms regularly used when discussing mesothelioma prognosis. However, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two. While life expectancy refers to the amount of time a given patient is expected to live, survival rates refer to the number of patients who live past a given time benchmark (e.g., five years) and are based on the historic data of previous patients. Survival rates can be useful in determining life expectancy, but they are only one piece of the puzzle. Certain survival rate data may not be useful for certain patients; for example, the survival rates of women over 65 will not be factored into the prognosis of a 50-year-old man.
It’s also important to recognize that general survival rate data that is not highly refined is limited in its value to most patients. This is because it consolidates data from all types of historical patients, including those who didn’t receive any treatment and those who didn’t see a mesothelioma specialist. Data from 30 years ago will also be less relevant to current patients, as mesothelioma knowledge was even more limited in the past, and access to specialists was less common.
Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates
A study that looked at almost 10,000 pleural mesothelioma patients diagnosed between 1973 and 2006 was published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology in 2010.
For pleural mesothelioma, the overall survival rates were found as follows:
|Time After Diagnosis||
Overall Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rate
This study found that survivorship was lower for patients with certain characteristics:
- Older patients
- Male patients
- Patients with later stage non-epithelioid mesothelioma
- Patients who did not receive radiotherapy
Patients who showed the best median survival were those who received surgery with radiotherapy, rather than just one or neither of these treatments.
Another study published in 2017 in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at the impact certain treatments had on overall survival for malignant pleural mesothelioma. The study found that patients who received an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) followed by intensity-modulated radiation therapy showed a median survival of 38.2 months and median relapse-free survival (RFS) of 24.4 months. For comparison, patients who receive a pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) have a median overall survival of approximately 20 months.
For mesothelioma patients, multimodal therapy yields the most positive results. While receiving just one form of treatment may help patients feel better, multiple therapies must be combined to offer the best chance of extending survival. For pleural mesothelioma, a trimodal approach has proven to be the most effective method of treatment for increasing survival. This 3-stage multimodal therapy method combines surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy to target the cancer in many different ways. The exact order in which these treatments are administered depends on the patient and the recommendations of the mesothelioma specialist.
SMART (Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation) Survival Rates
The SMART approach to pleural mesothelioma treatment refers to the process of administering a course of high-dose intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) before performing an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). This new treatment method has generated exceptional results, with clinical research studies showing that the procedure led to the 3-year survival rate more than doubling from a surgery-first approach. With a surgery-first treatment method, the 3-year pleural mesothelioma survival rate was 32%—with SMART, the rate skyrocketed to 72% among study participants.
Survival Rates and Staging
Mesothelioma stage is one of the most useful ways to break down survival rate data. Staging varies for different types of cancer but is usually represented on a scale of 1 to 4. The higher the stage is, the more advanced the cancer is. The stage of the cancer refers to its metastasis, or how far the malignant growth has spread from its original location. The following numbers showcase the overall pleural mesothelioma survival rates and survival times, categorized by stage. The survival rates are approximate since the extent of metastasis varies within each general stage.
Pleural Mesothelioma Stage
Median Survival Time
2-Year Survival Rate (Approximate)
5-Year Survival Rate
21 to 51 months
19 to 26 months
15 to 16 months
8 to 12 months
Peritoneal mesothelioma survival rates are typically not discussed in terms of stage. This is because this type of mesothelioma doesn’t have a formal staging system. Its rarity and response to treatments have made it difficult for experts to create a valuable, informative staging system for peritoneal mesothelioma and to present survival data in relation to it.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates
In general, peritoneal mesothelioma has a better prognosis than pleural and pericardial mesothelioma.
The overall peritoneal mesothelioma survival rates are as follows:
Time After Diagnosis
Overall Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rate
Multimodal therapy is also proven to be the best approach to treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma. For example, studies have discovered that combining cytoreductive surgery (surgery that reduces the bulk of a tumor as much as possible) with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is highly effective for improving survival in peritoneal mesothelioma patients.
One study observed the outcomes of patients who received this multimodal combination treatment and followed up with them over five years.
The results found the following 5-year survival rates:
- 40% for patients who received neoadjuvant (preoperative / pre-radiation) chemotherapy
- 67% for adjuvant (postoperative /post-radiation) chemotherapy
- 62% for total perioperative chemotherapy
- 56% for patients in the study who didn’t receive any chemotherapy
Pericardial Mesothelioma Survival Rates
Determining survival rates for pericardial mesothelioma is difficult due to the extreme rarity of this disease. Because pericardial mesothelioma is so rare, there is limited data on it and the patients who have had it. Only 1% of known and diagnosed mesothelioma cases have been pericardial. Due in part to its rarity, but also to limited knowledge in the medical community about how asbestos fibers may reach the heart, and to the heart area’s sensitivity to treatment, the prognosis for pericardial mesothelioma is the poorest out of all three main types. Survival instances are very poor, although this will hopefully change as medical experts learn more about how this type of mesothelioma occurs and how to optimally treat it.
Survival Rates by Patient Demographic
When learning about mesothelioma survival rates, it’s essential to remember that historical data alone does not determine how long you or any given patient will live. While your survival time cannot be predicted 100% accurately, there are many individual factors your doctor will look at as factors in your prognosis.
Although mesothelioma primarily affects men, women who have the disease tend to live longer than their male counterparts. The exact reasons for this discrepancy are not known, but some medical professionals have considered hormonal differences as a factor.
Still, experts hope to look at the longer survivorship of women patients to help them understand how to improve survival rates in men as well.
The chart below shows the overall mesothelioma survival rates broken down by gender:
1 Year Survival Rate
|2 Year Survival Rate|
3 Year Survival Rate
4 Year Survival Rate
5 Year Survival Rate
Age will also factor into a patient’s prognosis. Older patients have a significantly lower survival rate than younger patients. This is partially because younger patients qualify for a greater range of treatments, including more aggressive therapies that may cause complications in elderly patients. The table below showcases mesothelioma survival rates by age groups.
Overall Survival Rate
In addition to these demographic factors, patient lifestyle can also impact survival rates. For example, smokers may not qualify for certain treatments, preventing them from improving their survival. General health-related habits such as diet, drug usage and fitness can also play a role in how long a patient survives.
Future of Mesothelioma Survival
Although survival of mesothelioma is grim, things are looking up. With new, specialized treatments such as the SMART approach, immunotherapy, gene therapy, and HIPEC, there is more hope than ever for living beyond your prognosis. New research also holds promise for the future. We already see a positive trend in survival, and with ongoing dedication within the medical community, this should only continue.
A better understanding and recognition of mesothelioma will also help ensure that early screening and detection happens more often. Public education and awareness will also help those exposed to asbestos look for signs sooner. The earlier mesothelioma is found in a patient, the more effective treatment will be.
For more information on mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease, contact out Victims Advocates today.