Survival rates are another way to express the average cancer patient’s survival time with recent statistics. Because mesothelioma is so rare, survival rates for the disease tend to be much lower than other types of cancer. Yet, mesothelioma survival rates are improving with the development of novel therapies.
Some patients choose to ignore survival rates because the rates only give an idea of an individual’s mesothelioma prognosis. If you feel the same, talk to someone from our Patient Help Team who can help you explore ways to improve your prognosis.
Mesothelioma Survival Rate Considerations
Survival statistics look to find consistencies among cases to give general estimates for survival rates. However, just like no two patients are the same, no two cases of mesothelioma are the same. Different prognostic factors like age, weight and overall health all impact survival rates. You may always seek a second opinion to learn more. When looking at your survival rate data, remember:
They might not be indicative of your diagnosis. Survival rates are averages based on the combined experiences of large numbers of mesothelioma patients in the past. This means patients who refused treatment or had worst case scenarios drag the average survival rate down.
They are just a guideline. Doctors use these statistics as a tool or a guideline to develop a treatment plan. They also use them to explain a patient’s prognosis and how the disease might affect their quality of life in the future. Survival rates don’t take into account an individual’s diagnosis.
They aren’t set in stone. Survival rates can change as both new and standard mesothelioma treatments are developed in clinical trials. Oncologists are constantly developing new cancer treatments that could impact your survival rate.
A survival rate refers to the percentage of people who survive their diagnosis after a certain amount of time. Mesothelioma survival rates are expressed as a percentage of patients who survive their diagnosis after a certain interval of time (usually 1, 2 or 5 years).
Five-Year Survival Rates
Five-year survival rates are the most common ways to express rates of survival in cancer patients.
The 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma is between 5 and 10 percent, meaning that 5-10 percent of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma live at least 5 years.
Looking at survival rates can give patients and families a bigger picture. It’s important to remember that these rates are only a piece of the picture. Only a mesothelioma specialist can give you a truly accurate idea of your prognosis. Some patients who exploit all possible treatment options often have 5-year survival rates closer to 30 percent.
Treatments and Survival Rates
Cancer found in earlier stages generally has more treatment options than cancer diagnosed later. For example, surgery can be an option in early stages when the cancer is isolated. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation can be used to treat tumors and as palliative care to shrink tumors to increase comfort. Receiving treatment vastly improves mesothelioma prognosis and life expectancy.
Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses medications to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It can often be combined with other treatments to improve a patient’s outlook. For example, chemotherapy can be used following surgery to kill remaining cancer cells. Patients who undergo chemotherapy, including Alimta and cisplatin, can double their life expectancy compared to those who choose not to undergo treatment.
A newer treatment option, immunotherapy is used to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer on its own. In particular, the combination of two immune checkpoint inhibitors, Opdivo® (nivolumab) and Yervoy® (ipilimumab), has been shown to improve survival by 50 percent and is an FDA-approved treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Multimodal therapy is the combination of two or more treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Overall, using more than one treatment has improved the life expectancy of patients with mesothelioma in any location.
Overall survival rates typically improve after specialists perform surgery on patients with mesothelioma. Successful curative surgery can remove the bulk of a mesothelioma tumor, slowing down its aggressive spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). According to a large international study, the survival rate for patients who just had curative surgery doubled from an average of 1 year to just under 2 years.
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)
The extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) is a surgery for patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Patients who’ve had an EPP experienced an increased survival rate of up to about 27.5 months.
When paired with other forms of treatment, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, an EPP can improve survival rates even more. A number of studies have shown that a combination of EPP surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy increased survival times to 2 years and 5 months.
Pleurectomy with Decortication (P/D)
The median life expectancy for patients who undergo a pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) is about 20 months, just over a year and a half. Like the EPP, a P/D can also be combined with chemotherapy or radiation therapy for improved results. Patients who had a P/D with intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) had better survival rates than those who just had a P/D.
Cytoreduction with Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC)
Cytoreduction with HIPEC is a treatment specialists use for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. The combination of cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy has shown drastic improvements in survival rates for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. This procedure has improved the median survival rate of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma from 1 year to 5 years and beyond.
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Survival Rate Factors
Mesothelioma life expectancy and survival rate are influenced by a variety of factors including the type of mesothelioma, cell types and cancer stage, as well as patient age, gender and overall health. A patient might have a better prognosis and longer life expectancy based on these prognostic factors. The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program implemented by the United States makes data on these different factors easily accessible to the public.
Type of Mesothelioma
There are four main types of mesothelioma including malignant pleural mesothelioma, malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma, and testicular mesothelioma. Malignant pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura), is the most common type. As a result, pleural mesothelioma patients have the most treatment options available.
Though it can be misdiagnosed as lung cancer because it impacts the thoracic cavity in the lungs, malignant pleural mesothelioma is not lung cancer. For malignant pleural mesothelioma, the average life expectancy is around 12-21 months.
Peritoneal mesothelioma impacts the protective lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), which includes several major organs. This type of mesothelioma occurs in 20 to 24 percent of mesothelioma patients, and the average life expectancy for patients diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma is 12 months—though treatment has been shown to extend life far beyond that.
Pericardial mesothelioma occurs in the protective lining of the heart (pericardium). One of the rarest locations of mesothelioma, it accounts for about 1% of all cases. The life expectancy for patients with pericardial mesothelioma is six months.
Testicular mesothelioma occurs in the tunica vaginalis membrane that surrounds the testes. It accounts for less than 1% of all mesothelioma diagnoses. The life expectancy for testicular mesothelioma is around five years.
When it comes to mesothelioma, cell type plays an important role in a patient’s survival rate.
Mesothelioma tumors are made up of one of three cell types: epithelioid, sarcomatoid or biphasic.
Epithelioid Cell Type
Patients with epithelioid mesothelioma have the best survival rate because epithelioid cells respond better to treatment. This has to do with the shape and behavior of the cells, which tend to group together in tissue.
When treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the 2-year survival rate of patients with epithelioid mesothelioma is 65 percent and the 5-year survival rate is 27 percent.
Sarcomatoid Cell Type
Sarcomatoid patients have the worst survival rates. Unlike epithelioid cells, sarcomatoid cells spread quickly to other parts of the body, making them harder to treat.
Patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma who completed the same course of treatment experienced a 2-year survival rate of 20 percent.
Biphasic Cell Type
Biphasic cancer cells are made up of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Patients with biphasic mesothelioma containing more epithelioid cells respond better to treatment. As a result, they have longer survival rates than those with more sarcomatoid cells.
Cancer staging was designed to help patients understand their prognosis, and to help healthcare teams communicate details and plan treatment.
Each stage refers to how far the disease has spread (metastasized). In general, the farther the mesothelioma tumor has metastasized, the harder the cancer is to remove with surgery and fewer treatment options may be available. Because of this, higher survival rates are associated with earlier stages of mesothelioma (stages one and two).
- Stage One – 21 months
- Stage Two- 19 months
- Stage Three – 16 months
- Stage Four – 12 months
Age & Gender
Age: Age also plays a role in survival rates. The 5-year survival rate for patients who were under 45 at the time of their diagnosis is currently about 40 percent. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma over the age of 65 have a considerably lower 5-year survival rate of just under 5 percent.
The overall health of an individual patient, however, can cause the survival rate of a patient at any age to change drastically. Receiving quality treatment from an experienced mesothelioma specialist can also improve an older patient’s survival rate.
Gender: Women are twice as likely as men to survive a mesothelioma diagnosis for 5 years. Only 6 percent of men versus about 14 percent of women survive past 5 years. The main reason for this significant difference may be that more men traditionally work in occupations connected to asbestos exposure.
Improving Your Survival Rate
Doctors use survival statistics to plan out their patient’s course of treatment. Mesothelioma survival statistics are not meant to project the the exact moment a patient will pass. As newer mesothelioma treatments develop, patients may have the opportunity to receive life-extending treatments.
Each individual patient’s survival rate depends on a number of factors, like the disease’s cell type or stage, that can vary considerably. The best way for a patient to improve their survival rate is to seek treatment from an experienced mesothelioma specialist. Our Patient Help Team has access to a nationwide network of mesothelioma specialists and can help you find the treatment you need.
Mesothelioma Survival Rate FAQs
What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
Symptoms of mesothelioma vary based on what kind of mesothelioma a patient has, but may include:
- Abdominal pain or swelling (peritoneal)
- Chest pain (pleural)
- Coughing (pleural)
- Fluid around the lungs (pleural) or abdomen (peritoneal)
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Unexplained weight loss
What is the difference between mesothelioma and lung cancer?
Because of its location, mesothelioma can often be misdiagnosed as lung cancer. However, mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs (pleura), while lung cancer develops within the lungs.
Can you only get mesothelioma from asbestos exposure?
The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, either direct or secondhand.
How many mesothelioma cases are there per year?
About 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. Around 75% of these cases are pleural mesothelioma, affecting the lining of the lungs.
Stage I-III Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Retrieved on August 7, 2014 from: http://www.texasoncology.com/types-of-cancer/mesothelioma/stage-i-iii-malignant-pleural-mesothelioma/
Mesothelioma Prognosis. Retrieved on August 7, 2014 from: http://www.pennmedicine.org/mesothelioma/what-is-mesothelioma/mesothelioma-prognosis.html
Cancer survival rate: What it means for your prognosis. Retrieved on August 7, 2014 from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer/art-20044517
A Systematic Review of Extrapleural Pneumonectomy for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Retrieved on August 7, 2014 from: http://journals.lww.com/jto/Abstract/2010/10000/A_Systematic_Review_of_Extrapleural_Pneumonectomy.31.aspx
Which type of surgery should become the preferred procedure for malignant pleural mesothelioma: extrapleural pneumonectomy or extended pleurectomy? Retrieved on August 7, 2014 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3755681/
Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Patient Selection for Extrapleural Pneumonectomy. Retrieved on August 7, 2014 from: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-84996-492-0_48
Survival Statistics for Mesothelioma. Retrieved on March 7, 2016 from: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignantmesothelioma/detailedguide/malignant-mesothelioma-survival-statistics