Written By: Devin Golden

Asbestos Lung Cancer Survival Rates

Survival from asbestos lung cancer is one of the most important topics for patients with this cancer. You should use the survival rates listed on this page as a resource and not a measurement to determine your or a loved one’s asbestos lung cancer prognosis. Survival rates of lung cancer change for each patient, type of lung cancer, stage and treatment.

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse


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Important Facts About Asbestos Lung Cancer Survival Rates

  • The average survival for lung cancer is around one year. The 5-year survival rate is 23%. It is better for non-small cell lung cancer than for small-cell lung cancer.
  • Asbestos lung cancer does not have a measurable survival rate. Factors that cause asbestos lung cancer can help or worsen life expectancy for patients.
  • Survival rates for lung cancer are different for each stage. Stage 1 lung cancer has a better survival rate than stage 2, and so on.
  • Treatment also affects survival. Surgery provides patients the best chance for a long life expectancy. Immunotherapy, chemotherapy and other therapies can help with lung cancer survival.
  • Combining surgery with other treatment options has the best survival rates for lung cancer. Many respected and distinguished cancer centers and doctors offer a multimodal treatment plan for lung cancer.

What Is the Average Lung Cancer Survival?

Numerous websites report around 40% of patients with lung cancer survive for at least one year. This means the average survival for lung cancer is a little under one year. Other studies report the average survival is a little more than one year.

The 5-year lung cancer survival rate is around 23%. This percentage means 23 out of 100 people with lung cancer will live at least five years. However, this figure includes all cases of lung cancer. The survival rate of lung cancer changes for each stage and type of the disease. You’ll want to know the survival rate for your type of lung cancer and stage.

Survival rates of lung cancer listed on this page are only meant to provide patients and their family members with data of past cases. This information can provide a baseline of knowledge before considering the specific factors of your case.

What Is the Average Survival for Asbestos Lung Cancer?

There is no study specifying the average survival for asbestos lung cancer. A few factors may provide some insight, though. These details are linked to the different causes between asbestos lung cancer and non-asbestos lung cancer.

Asbestos is a naturally forming mineral. It was used to protect buildings, automobiles and other constructions from heat damage and fire. Asbestos can enter your body as microscopic sharp fibers and irritate lung tissue cells, which turns them cancerous.

Factors Affecting Asbestos Lung Cancer Survival Rates

The first detail to consider about asbestos lung cancer is it’s caused by asbestos exposure. Most lung cancer cases are due to smoking tobacco. Asbestos lung cancer cases are not always linked to smoking, and many people with this type of lung cancer never smoked cigarettes.

Smoking delivers many cancerous toxins into the body. People who have lung cancer from smoking may have worse health than people with asbestos lung cancer. This may result in asbestos lung cancer patients having a longer average life expectancy.

Second, asbestos lung cancer takes decades to develop after exposure. People were exposed during the 20th century without knowing asbestos was dangerous or even present.

The long amount of time for asbestos lung cancer to develop may mean people won’t react immediately to lung cancer symptoms. If they didn’t smoke and didn’t know they were exposed to asbestos, they may not consider cancer as a possible explanation for their cough or breathing issues.

The slow reaction to symptoms can delay diagnosis, which means the patient learns they have cancer in a later asbestos lung cancer stage. The later stages of lung cancer have poorer survival rates. This can explain why some asbestos lung cancer cases have shorter survival times.

Asbestos Lung Cancer Prognosis

A prognosis is the estimated survival given to a patient at the time of diagnosis or once they start or end treatment, such as chemotherapy or surgery. A prognosis is usually given by a lung cancer specialist, such as an oncologist or surgeon.

Difference Between Lung Cancer Prognosis and Lung Cancer Survival Rate

Prognosis and survival rates are different. Survival rates are measurements of survival based on all cases of a disease. Prognosis is individualized for the patient based on numerous factors:

  • Survival rates
  • Patient health
  • Smoking history
  • Patient age
  • Treatment options
  • Stage of disease

Your or a loved one’s asbestos-related lung cancer prognosis will depend on all of these factors.  Lung cancer caused by asbestos has a wide range of prognosis due to the differences in the overall health status of the patient.

Survival Rates by Lung Cancer Type

The two types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). Non-small cell lung cancer has much better survival outcomes usually.

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 26%
  • Small-cell lung cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 7%

There are approximately 236,000 lung cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Around 80% are the non-small cell type, which is positive news for most patients. NSCLC is more easily treated and has better survival rates.

Survival Rates by Lung Cancer Stage

Cancer is more advanced with each stage. As the lung cancer stages advance, the survival rates get worse. People with stage 1 lung cancer usually survive longer than people with stage 4 lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer and small-cell lung cancer have different stages. Non-small cell lung cancer goes from stage 1 to stage 4, while small-cell lung cancer only has two stages: limited and extensive.

NSCLC stages are split into subtypes based on tumor size and location. According to WebMD, survival rates for each of the NSCLC stages are below, split into the four stages.

The survival rates for stage 1 are:

  • Stage 1A1 – 97% 2-year survival rate; 90% 5-year survival rate
  • Stage 1A2 – 94% (2 years); 85% (5 years)
  • Stage 1A3 – 92% (2 years); 80% (5 years)
  • Stage 1B – 89% (2 years); 73% (5 years)

The survival rates for stage 2 are:

  • Stage 2A – 82% (2 years); 65% (5 years)
  • Stage 2B – 76% (2 years); 56% (5 years)

The survival rates for stage 3 are:

  • Stage 3A – 65% (2 years); 41% (5 years)
  • Stage 3B – 47% (2 years); 24% (5 years)
  • Stage 3C – 30% (2 years); 12% (5 years)

The survival rates for stage 4 are:

  • Stage 4A – 23% (2 years); 10% (5 years)
  • Stage 4B – 10% (2 years); 0% (5 years)

The two SCLC stages are limited-stage small-cell lung cancer and extensive-stage small cell lung cancer. Survival rates for each of the SCLC stages are:

  • Limited-stage small-cell lung cancer – 27% 5-year survival rate
  • Extensive-stage small-cell lung cancer – 2% 5-year survival rate

Survival Rates by Lung Cancer Treatment

Surgery is the usually best lung cancer treatment if you’re eligible for an operation. Around 25% of NSCLC patients qualify for surgery. There is no definite average survival or survival rate for any specific type of treatment, even surgery.

Different studies lead to their own results, which are often affected by patient selection (stage, lung cancer type, and patient health). The earlier the stage, the more surgery can help with lung cancer survival.

One example is a recent study in Japan of stage 1A non-small cell lung cancer patients. The study revealed that a segmentectomy (removing segments of a lung lobe) was better for these early stage patients than a lobectomy (removing an entire lobe or multiple lobes of a diseased lung):

  • 5-year survival rate of 94% after a segmentectomy
  • 5-year survival rate of 91% after a lobectomy

Both results are excellent. Patients should rely on their lung cancer doctor’s opinion for which type of surgery will provide them the best life expectancy.

Survival Rates for Multimodal Lung Cancer Treatment

Using multiple types of treatment also improves survival. Surgery is considered the primary lung cancer treatment, but lung cancer survival can be improved with chemotherapy or immunotherapy before or after the surgery.

An example is a study combining surgery and chemotherapy. Patients in the study had an average survival of 40 months (3 years, 4 months). This study also had mostly cases of stage 1 or stage 2 lung cancer.

The immunotherapy drug nivolumab (Opdivo) is a treatment option before or after lung cancer surgery. The immunotherapy was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for resectable cases of non-small cell lung cancer. Opdivo is an immune checkpoint inhibitor, meaning it helps the immune system fight cancer. Opdivo blocks the cancerous protein PD-L1 and keeps T cells active against lung cancer.

Opdivo and chemotherapy before surgery has an average lung cancer survival of around 31 months, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Chemotherapy alone before surgery has an average lung cancer survival of 20 months.

Lung Cancer Survival Rates With Immunotherapy

If surgery isn’t an option, then immunotherapy and chemotherapy are the primary treatment. Some cancer centers and lung cancer doctors will use radiation therapy or targeted therapy like growth inhibitors.

Immunotherapy in particular has the most promise for providing some patients with 5-year survival or longer. One study using the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for cases expressing a specific protein – one targeted by Keytruda – had a 5-year survival rate of 26%. This is better than chemotherapy’s lung cancer survival rate.

Sources & Author

  1. Lung Cancer Survival Rates. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html. Accessed: 05/02/2022.
  2. Lung Cancer – Small Cell: Statistics. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/lung-cancer-small-cell/statistics. Accessed 05/02/2022.
  3. Lung Cancer – Non-Small Cell: Statistics. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/lung-cancer-non-small-cell/statistics. Accessed: 05/01/2022.
  4. Your Chances of Surviving Lung Cancer. WebMD. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/guide/lung-cancer-survival-rates. Accessed: 05/02/2022.
  5. Survival. Cancer Research UK. Retrieved from: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/lung-cancer/survival. Accessed: 04/29/2022.
  6. Treatment of stage IIIA–N2 EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung adenocarcinoma. Journal of Thoracic Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6384346/. Accessed: 05/10/2022.
  7. Segmentectomy versus lobectomy in small-sized peripheral non-small-cell lung cancer (JCOG0802/WJOG4607L): a multicentre, open-label, phase 3, randomised, controlled, non-inferiority trial. The Lancet. Retrieved from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02333-3/fulltext. Accessed: 05/04/2022.
  8. Predictors of long time survival after lung cancer surgery: A retrospective cohort study. BMC Pulmonary Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2614408/. Accessed: 05/01/2022.
  9. FDA’s Approval of Opdivo-Chemo Regimen Spurs Another Thought-Provoking Treatment Option in Lung Cancer. Cure. Retrieved from: https://www.curetoday.com/view/fda-s-approval-of-opdivo-chemo-regimen-spurs-another-thought-provoking-treatment-option-in-lung-cancer. Accessed: 05/10/2022.
Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.