If you have just received a mesothelioma diagnosis, you and your family are probably trying to process your mesothelioma prognosis. As you get over the initial shock, you and your family will begin to ask important questions. You will need to know what type of mesothelioma you have, where the tumor is located in your body, and what your lab report (pathology reports) reveal about your mesothelioma stage. All this information will help you understand your mesothelioma prognosis.
What is a Mesothelioma Prognosis?
A prognosis is a guess about the likely course of your mesothelioma disease and an estimate of your survival time. Understanding what your mesothelioma prognosis means to you and your family can help you prepare for this phase of your life. Because mesothelioma is a terminal disease with no known cure to date, the purpose of your prognosis is to help you understand and evaluate your next steps. In addition, your prognosis helps your doctors advise you on available treatment options. Your doctor will help you choose the combination of treatment that has the best chance to prolong your life and keep you healthy for as long as possible.
After you get your mesothelioma prognosis, you may want to consider these important questions:
- Do I want to undergo mesothelioma treatment?
- What are the best treatment options for my mesothelioma prognosis?
- How will I care for myself and manage my treatment or surgery side effects?
- Are mesothelioma treatments expensive? Will insurance cover them? How will my family afford to pay for my treatment and other expenses related to my mesothelioma care?
What Conditions Impact My Prognosis?
A number of factors can directly impact your mesothelioma prognosis. These factors are individual to you making your situation unique. No single statistic or set of statistics can completely or accurately predict your life expectancy. But, based on experience from other mesothelioma patients combined with your unique factors, your doctor may be able to provide a range of life expectancy. Many factors that affect your prognosis are not within your control. There are some things you can do, however, that will improve your mesothelioma prognosis.
Several conditions and factors, that you have and can’t control, could impact your mesothelioma prognosis, including:
- Mesothelioma Cancer Stage: One of the most important factors is where you are in the development of the disease. If you are diagnosed at Stage 1, your tumors are probably small and localized in one area of the body. If your mesothelioma has progressed to Stage 4, your mesothelioma tumors have probably spread to multiple places within your body and your tumors will be larger in size. As with other forms of cancer, mesothelioma is more treatable if it is diagnosed at an earlier cancer stage.
- Type of Mesothelioma: The type of mesothelioma you have is classified through the location of the disease within the body. The most prominent locations are the lungs, abdomen, and heart. The rarest mesothelioma type, testicular, is the most treatable. Pleural mesothelioma, which grows in the lining around your lungs, is the most common type. You may have a wider range of treatment options available if you have pleural mesothelioma.
- Mesothelioma Cell Type: There are three mesothelioma cell types: epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. Epithelioid, which is the most common cell type, is slower growing and easier to treat than the more aggressive sarcomatoid cells. Biphasic tumors contain both types of mesothelioma cells.
- Age: Mesothelioma usually takes many years to develop after asbestos exposure. The average age at diagnosis is 69. The older you are when you discover you have this disease, the poorer your mesothelioma prognosis. In addition, older patients have a greater chance of having other health issues that may complicate treatment or affect survival time.
- Genetics: Scientists are studying the BAP-1 mutation as a possible factor in improved prognosis for mesothelioma patients. Patients who carry a certain mutation of the BRCA1-associated protein-1 (BAP1) gene tend to have better mesothelioma survival rates.
How Do I Improve My Prognosis?
There is no cure for mesothelioma, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. There are positive actions you can take to improve your mesothelioma prognosis. Your actions to take care of your health could add years to your life.
- Physical Health: The better your physical condition, the better your chances of being able to fight mesothelioma. If you have maintained a healthy diet and exercise regimen, your body has a better opportunity to withstand aggressive mesothelioma treatments that could help you get better. Your level of health also impacts your recovery time from treatment or surgery. It’s not too late to improve your health after your mesothelioma diagnosis. Gentle exercise and healthy eating can increase your stamina and improve your mesothelioma prognosis.
- Mental Health: Anxiety and depression are common among cancer patients. Studies have shown that your mental health can affect your mesothelioma prognosis, too. Support from friends, a counselor, or a mesothelioma support group can help you stay positive during your treatment. Some mesothelioma patients find solace in meditation, religious practices, or spending time in nature.
- Smoking: Exposure to asbestos dust is the main cause of mesothelioma. Quitting smoking is probably one of the best things you can do to increase your survival time and improve your health. Smoking does not cause mesothelioma but it is very hard on the lungs and your body.
- Specialists: One of the best things you can do to increase your survival time is to seek out treatment from the best available mesothelioma specialists and hospitals. Several top-notch research hospitals in the US have mesothelioma centers that provide the latest treatments. If you’re a veteran, the VA also employs mesothelioma specialists.
- Mesothelioma Clinical Trials: The number of clinical trials available to mesothelioma patients has increased recently. You no longer have to wade through the complicated process of finding the right trial for you and your family. A Mesothelioma Clinical Trial Matching Service will help you understand the best trial for you. They can help you find a trial near your home when possible and ensure that you have the qualifications to participate in trial.
- Second Opinion: Just like with any other serious health condition, you are entitled to a second opinion on your diagnosis and recommended treatments. You and your family should feel comfortable with your doctors and specialists and trust their advice.
What Are Mesothelioma Survival Rates?
Age is the biggest factor affecting mesothelioma prognosis. After one year, more than 50% of patients diagnosed between ages 50 and 64 are still alive. Fewer than 30% of mesothelioma patients over 75 survive for more than a year.
Gender affects survival rates as well. Though women make up only 25% of mesothelioma patients, they have higher survival rates than men. Women are much more likely than men to be long-term mesothelioma survivors. Only about 6% of men survive five years or more with mesothelioma. Women are almost three times as likely (16%) to survive that long.
Statistics on survival rates are based on data from all mesothelioma patients. Individuals may have survival rates that defy the odds. Many of the factors above can affect your individual mesothelioma prognosis. In addition, some patients have had success with newly-developed immunotherapy treatments that have increased their survival time.
Your mesothelioma prognosis is not written in stone. You can choose to fight this deadly disease with everything you’ve got and make the most of every day.