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Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Mesothelioma has a low survival rate, and only 8% of patients with pleural mesothelioma will still be alive after 5 years, according to the most recent numbers supplied by the American Cancer Society (ACS). Researchers determine survival rates by studying people after they are diagnosed or have started treatments. That said, every case is different, and long-term survival may sometimes be possible.

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What Is the Survival Rate for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma survival rates show how many patients are still alive after a certain period of time has passed. Survival rates are usually determined by studying groups of patients after they are diagnosed or begin treatment.

Average Survival Rates for Mesothelioma

Time After Diagnosis

Survival Rate

1 year

73%
3 years

22.9%

5 years

10%

When learning about malignant (deadly) mesothelioma survival rates, it’s important to remember that statistical rates alone do not determine how long a patient will live. A number of different factors can affect overall survival time.

Factors that affect mesothelioma survival rates include:

  • Age: Younger patients may respond better to mesothelioma treatments, meaning they may survive longer.
  • Mesothelioma cell types: Some mesothelioma tumors are made up of cells that grow slower and respond easier to treatment than other cancerous cells.
  • Type of mesothelioma: Mesothelioma can develop in the linings of different organs, and some types of mesothelioma are easier to treat than others.
  • Other factors: Patients who are otherwise healthy and diagnosed before the cancer has spread can typically tolerate life-extending treatments better.

Finally, remember that with new advancements in treatment and research, survival rates of mesothelioma patients are slowly improving over time, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Translational Oncology.

Survivorship of both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma has improved in recent years, as more research has been done and new treatments have been introduced.

In some cases, patients who were given a poor mesothelioma prognosis and low chance of survival went on to beat the odds and live for many years after their diagnosis.

Survival Rate vs Life Expectancy

Survival rates are often confused with life expectancy:

  • Life expectancies refer to the estimated 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.

Doctors will use average mesothelioma life expectancies and survival rates to estimate how long a patient may expect to live after a diagnosis.

Quick Facts About Mesothelioma Survival Rates

  • Mesothelioma survival rates are used to report how many patients were still alive six months to a year after diagnosis. As more patients live past these benchmarks, rates are increasingly referred to in terms of two-year and five-year survival as well.
  • Both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma survival rates increased between 1992 and 2012, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Translational Oncology.
  • While survival rates have improved, more mesothelioma deaths were reported in 2015 than in 1999, meaning there were more cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be qualified to receive financial compensation.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Location

Mesothelioma can develop in one of four sites throughout the body, and where the cancer forms can greatly impact survival rates. Some types of mesothelioma will be easier to treat than others.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs, is the most common type of this cancer.

A study comparing survival rates of 10,000 patients with pleural mesothelioma was published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology in 2010. The overall pleural mesothelioma survival rates are shown in the table below.

Time After Diagnosis

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates

6 months

55%

1 year

33%

5 years

5%

 

Patients who showed the best median survival were those who received surgery with radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, rather than just one or neither of these treatments.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Stage

Mesothelioma stage is one of the most useful ways to break down survival rate data. The stage of the cancer refers to its metastasis, or how far the malignant growth has spread from its original location.

Mesothelioma stages are usually represented on a scale of 1 to 4. The higher the stage, the further the cancer has spread throughout the body.

According to the ACS, only pleural mesothelioma has a staging system since the other types of mesothelioma are much less common. These other types are classified as “localized” or “advanced” depending on how far the cancer has spread when diagnosed.

The following numbers showcase the overall pleural mesothelioma survival rates and survival times, categorized by stage. Numbers can differ somewhat, based on which study provides them.

Pleural Mesothelioma Stage 1

Median Survival Time:
21 to 51 months

Two-Year Survival Rate:
41-46%
Five-Year Survival Rate:
13-16%

Pleural Mesothelioma Stage 2

Median Survival Time:
19 to 26 months
Two-Year Survival Rate:
38%

Five-Year Survival Rate:
10%

Pleural Mesothelioma Stage 3

Median Survival Time:
15 to 16 months

Two-Year Survival Rate:
26-30%
Five-Year Survival Rate:
5-8%

Pleural Mesothelioma Stage 4

Median Survival Time:
8 to 12 months
Two-Year Survival Rate:
17%

Five-Year Survival Rate:
>1%

 

These survival rates are approximate since the extent of metastasis varies within each general stage.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates

In general, peritoneal mesothelioma has the best prognosis compared to the other types of this disease. This is largely due to improved treatments that combine surgery with heated chemotherapy, which allows doctors to greatly limit the cancer’s spread.

The overall peritoneal mesothelioma survival rates are shown below.

Time After Diagnosis

Overall Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates

1 Year

92%

3 Year

74%
5 Year

65%

10 Year

39%

 

These survival rates are greatly impacted by whether a patient can receive treatment. Without treatment, patients with peritoneal mesothelioma have a median survival time of under 5 months to a year after diagnosis.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Determining survival rates for pericardial mesothelioma is difficult due to the extreme rarity of this disease. Only about 1% of known and diagnosed mesothelioma cases have been pericardial.

According to a 2013 study, only a very small number of patients with pericardial mesothelioma will still be alive 1 year after diagnosis.  Many patients are not properly diagnosed until they receive an explorative surgery or an autopsy is performed.

Survival rates will hopefully improve as medical experts learn more about how to properly diagnose and treat this type of mesothelioma.

Testicular Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Though testicular mesothelioma is also extremely rare, new studies have helped scientists determine average survival rates.

49% of patients diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma were still alive after 5 years, according to a 2019 study. This study accounted for 113 testicular mesothelioma patients diagnosed between 1973 to 2015.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Cell Type

Because mesothelioma tumors can be made up of different types of cells — and some of which respond better to treatment than others — cell type also impacts survival rates.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma Survival Rates

According to Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center, patients who have an epithelioid mesothelioma cell type have better survival rates than those with other cell types.

Mesothelioma tumors made up of epithelial cells respond better to treatment than do tumors made up of other cell types. Epithelial cells tend to divide at a slower rate, allowing the spread of the cancer to be slightly more contained.

According to a study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Center, the two-year survival rate for epithelioid mesothelioma is 65%, provided the patients were treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The five-year survival rate is 27%.

Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells tend to multiply and spread rapidly throughout the body. They also do not respond as well to treatments when compared to epithelioid cells.

For these reasons, patients diagnosed with sarcomatoid mesothelioma tend to have lower survival rates. The Dana-Farber Cancer Center found that just 20% of patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma would still be alive after two years, and none were alive after five years.

Biphasic Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Biphasic mesothelioma tumors are made up of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cell types. Because of this, the survival rate can vary depending on how much of each cell type is present.

In the previously referenced study about testicular mesothelioma survival rates, the researchers found that biphasic mesothelioma tumors were associated with a lower overall survival rate than those with epithelioid mesothelioma.

Survival Rates by Patient Demographic

Mesothelioma survival rates are also affected by patients’ demographics (characteristics such as sex and age). Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are Caucasian American men over the age of 65.

Sex

Mesothelioma primarily affects men, but women who have the disease tend to live longer than their male counterparts. The exact reasons for this are not yet known, but some medical experts believe hormonal differences could be a factor.

The chart below shows the overall mesothelioma survival rates broken down by gender.

Survival Rate After Diagnosis

Male

Female

1 Year Survival Rate

37.6% 45.4%

2 Year Survival Rate

17.4% 29.3%

3 Year Survival Rate

10.4%

22.2%

4 Year Survival Rate 7.7%

18.6%

5 Year Survival Rate 5.9%

16.0%

 

Experts hope to determine why women survive longer to see how they can improve survival rates in men.

Age

Age will also factor into a patient’s prognosis. Older patients have a significantly lower survival rate than younger patients.

Age Group

Overall Survival Rate

Under 50

57.2%

50-64

51.2%

65-74

40.9%

Over 75

28.5%

 

Age affects survival rates because younger patients are typically healthier and stronger than seniors. Because of this, they often qualify for a greater range of treatments, including aggressive surgeries that may cause complications in elderly patients.

Race

Mesothelioma affects Caucasian Americans more than any other race, according to a report from the CDC.

Did You Know?

From 1999 to 2015, nearly 95% of all people who died in the U.S. due to mesothelioma were Caucasian Americans.

In addition, a 2015 study indicated that 84% of mesothelioma patients under the age of 40 — and 92% of elderly patients — were caucasian.

Other Factors

In addition to these demographic factors, patient lifestyle can also impact survival rates. General health-related habits such as diet, drug use, and fitness all play a role in how long a patient with mesothelioma may survive.

If a patient was in poor health even before a mesothelioma diagnosis, they may not be able to safely undergo life-extending treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

If you have a known history of asbestos exposure and are now displaying symptoms of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, a mesothelioma attorney can help determine if you are eligible for compensation.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates After Treatment

After diagnosis, most mesothelioma patients are highly encouraged to seek treatment to improve their survival time. Though mesothelioma cannot be cured, treatments are a patient’s best option at increasing their lifespan.

Mesothelioma treatments typically aim to destroy as much of the cancer as possible, either by physically removing tumors with surgery or by killing cancer cells through chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these treatments.

All of these treatments help slow the cancer’s spread to major organs and thus prevent life-threatening complications.

Mesothelioma Surgery Survival Rates

Through surgery, a mesothelioma specialist will remove visible cancer tumors and, in some cases, the parts of the body where the tumors developed.

Different surgeries will be performed depending on what type of mesothelioma a patient has.

Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)

As part of extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), mesothelioma specialists remove all visible tumors, the lung closest to where the cancer developed, and the lining of the lung.

The median survival time for patients who received this procedure was 18 months, according to 24 years’ worth of data analyzed by renowned mesothelioma specialists David Sugarbaker, Raphael Bueno, and William G. Richards.

Pleurectomy with Decortication (P/D)

Patients with pleural mesothelioma may also be eligible for a pleurectomy with decortication (P/D). With this procedure, the lining of the lung — along with any mesothelioma tumors — are removed but the affected lung is not.

Did You Know?

Patients who receive a P/D can expect to live for 10-25 months on average after the procedure, according to data noted in a 2017 study on the procedure.

This study also noted that patients who undergo a P/D typically have a higher quality of life than those who undergo an EPP.

SMART (Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy) Survival Rates

Through the SMART approach, pleural mesothelioma patients receive a high dose of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) followed by an EPP.

Clinical studies found that this procedure improved survival rates significantly when compared to a surgery-first approach. With just surgery, the 3-year pleural mesothelioma survival rate was 32%. With SMART, the survival rate skyrocketed to 72%.

Cytoreduction with HIPEC (Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy)

Cytoreduction with HIPEC after surgery or by itself can greatly improve survival rates for peritoneal mesothelioma patients.

When used together, all visible mesothelioma tumors are removed through surgery, and the affected area is then bathed with heated chemotherapy drugs.

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 five-year survival rates:

  • 40% for patients who received neoadjuvant (before surgery) chemotherapy
  • 67% for patients who received adjuvant (post-surgery) chemotherapy
  • 62% for those who received perioperative (during surgery) chemotherapy
  • 56% for patients in the study who didn’t receive any chemotherapy

According to the University of Maryland Medical System, 69% of mesothelioma patients will still be alive 5 years after receiving this procedure.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates With Multimodal Therapy

For mesothelioma patients, multimodal therapy — a combination of more than one type of treatment — yields the best results.

For pleural mesothelioma, a trimodal approach has proven to be the most effective method of treatment for increasing survival. The trimodal therapy method combines surgery with chemotherapy and radiation to kill as many cancer cells as possible.

Multimodal therapy is also proven to be the best approach to treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma. In fact, cytoreduction with HIPEC is a form of multimodal therapy as it combines both surgery and chemotherapy.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates Without Treatment

Mesothelioma survival rates are typically lower if a patient does not seek treatment because the cancer will continue to spread if left unchecked.

However, life-extending treatments (such as invasive surgery) may not be a safe option for every mesothelioma patient, especially those diagnosed after the cancer has spread throughout the body.

In these cases, specialists can give mesothelioma patients an estimated life expectancy if treatments are not available and recommend other medical options to ease a patient’s pain or symptoms.

In a 2015 study, peritoneal mesothelioma patients who could not undergo surgery had median survival times of 11 months if they received palliative chemotherapy. Patients who received general supportive care lived for less than 3 months on average.

Stories from Mesothelioma Survivors

Some mesothelioma victims have gone on to surpass the low survival rates associated with this cancer. See how three people made the most from life with mesothelioma.

George

George was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2014 after complaining of shortness of breath.

Faced with a terminal diagnosis, George defined life on his own terms by visiting close friends and golfing with his son while undergoing chemotherapy. He lived long enough to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding and become a grandfather.

Today, George’s widow and family continue to honor his legacy by participating in mesothelioma advocacy events in his memory.

Richard

Richard received a mesothelioma diagnosis in October 2017 after suffering from chest pain and difficulty breathing. Unfortunately, asbestos — the only known cause of mesothelioma — had been present throughout Richard’s life.

As a child, his mother worked at an asbestos textile factory in Ohio, and in the 1950s, Richard served in the U.S. Air Force. From the 1930s to the early 1980s, the military heavily relied on asbestos-containing products.

Though doctors initially gave Richard a week to live, he beat the odds and survived for much longer.

Mike

At the age of 29, Mike was diagnosed with mesothelioma and was initially given a year or less to live. Mike had no idea that his initially mild symptoms, including shortness of breath, could have been the result of this deadly cancer.

Despite this grim prognosis, Mike continues to fight on to this day, enduring numerous surgeries and joining the few survivors who have attained long-term survival. Today, Mike is an advocate for a ban on asbestos-containing products.

Mesothelioma Survival Rate and Your Lifespan

While mesothelioma survival rates are important to understand, they ultimately do not define how long you may live after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

The ACS notes that mesothelioma survival rates do not take all the factors listed above into account, and as new treatment options emerge through research, survival rates may improve.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there may be ways to improve your overall survival time. For example, you can access key medical treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation with the help of mesothelioma specialists.

To learn more about mesothelioma survival rates and how to afford treatments that may help you, contact our team today.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Reviewed by:Dr. Mark Levin

Certified Oncologist and Hematologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Mark Levin, MD has nearly 30 years of experience in academic and community hematology and oncology. In addition to serving as Chief or Director at four different teaching institutions throughout his life, he is also still a practicing clinician, has taught and designed formal education programs, and has authored numerous publications in various fields related to hematology and oncology.

Dr. Mark Levin 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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