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Mesothelioma Facts and Statistics

Mesothelioma is unlike any other cancer, from how it develops to how quickly it spreads. These mesothelioma facts and statistics will give patients and family members a better ability to fight this disease.

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Written by Jenna Campagna, RN

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Fact Checked

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Interesting Facts About Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium. This is a thin layer of tissue covering the lungs (pleura), abdomen (peritoneum) and heart (pericardium).

Asbestos is the only proven cause of this cancer. This is the most important mesothelioma fact to remember.

USA data and facts detailing how many are diagnosed with Mesothelioma per year
USA data and facts detailing how many are diagnosed with Mesothelioma per year
USA data and facts detailing how many are diagnosed with Mesothelioma per year
Illustration depicting Veterans with text providing the fact that one third of Mesothelioma cases are veterans
Illustration depicting Veterans with text providing the fact that one third of Mesothelioma cases are veterans
Illustration depicting Veterans with text providing the fact that one third of Mesothelioma cases are veterans
  • Close to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year in the United States.
  • At least one-third of people with mesothelioma are military veterans.
  • Symptoms of mesothelioma typically do not appear until 20-50 years after being exposed to asbestos.
  • Being diagnosed with mesothelioma under the age of 45 is rare.
Illustration of man with construction hat bolded next to illustration of woman with fact stating Men with Mesothelioma are far more common than women
Illustration of man with construction hat bolded next to illustration of woman with fact stating Men with Mesothelioma are far more common than women
Illustration of man with construction hat bolded next to illustration of woman with fact stating Men with Mesothelioma are far more common than women
  • Men with mesothelioma are far more common than women with mesothelioma, mostly due to working jobs that involved asbestos.
  • From 1999-2015, there were 45,221 deaths in the United States due to malignant mesothelioma.
  • Asbestos is no longer a staple of commercial and industrial business practices. However, mesothelioma incidence has not gone down in recent years.
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Facts About Mesothelioma Types

There are multiple types of mesothelioma based on where the cancer originates. Each one requires a different treatment plan and is associated with unique symptoms.

There are three cell variations, which can affect your prognosis. These facts about mesothelioma types will explain how rare each is.

Clipboard icon with facts stating that between 80% and 85% of Mesothelioma cases are Pleural
Clipboard icon with facts stating that between 80% and 85% of Mesothelioma cases are Pleural
Clipboard icon with facts stating that between 80% and 85% of Mesothelioma cases are Pleural
Elderly man illustration with text fact statiing 67% of Pleural Mesothelioma patients are older than 65
Elderly man illustration with text fact statiing 67% of Pleural Mesothelioma patients are older than 65
Elderly man illustration with text fact statiing 67% of Pleural Mesothelioma patients are older than 65
Illustration of eight to ten ratio of men to women with text fact that states 80% of Pleural Mesothelioma Patients are male
Illustration of eight to ten ratio of men to women with text fact that states 80% of Pleural Mesothelioma Patients are male
Illustration of eight to ten ratio of men to women with text fact that states 80% of Pleural Mesothelioma Patients are male
  • Approximately 67% of pleural mesothelioma patients are age 65 and older.
  • Around 80% of pleural mesothelioma patients are male. Close to 56% of peritoneal mesothelioma cases involve men.

The three cell types are epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic. A biphasic cell type means the patient has a mixture of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells.

Illustration of an epithelioid cell with the text fact that states that Epithelioid mesothelioma accounts for 50-70% of all cases
Illustration of an epithelioid cell with the text fact that states that Epithelioid mesothelioma accounts for 50-70% of all cases
Illustration of an epithelioid cell with the text fact that states that Epithelioid mesothelioma accounts for 50-70% of all cases

Mesothelioma Facts About Treatment

While there is no cure for mesothelioma, there are many treatment options. Surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation are a few.

One notable mesothelioma fact is that in 2019 the United States Food and Drug Administration approved a tumor treating fields device for this cancer called Optune Lua. It was the first FDA approval in 15 years for this rare cancer. In 2020, the FDA approved two immunotherapy drugs: Opdivo and Yervoy.

Patients may also receive multimodal treatment or participate in clinical trials. Sometimes a patient’s cancer is too advanced for aggressive treatment. In these cases, pain-relief treatment (called “palliative treatment) can provide comfort.

Illustration of ten Chemotherapy Bags to depict the three out of ten that do not recieve treatment for Mesothelioma
Illustration of ten Chemotherapy Bags to depict the three out of ten that do not recieve treatment for Mesothelioma
Illustration of ten Chemotherapy Bags to depict the three out of ten that do not recieve treatment for Mesothelioma
  • Unfortunately, 20-30% of mesothelioma patients do not receive any type of treatment.
  • Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC or “hot chemo”) is an effective treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma. During HIPEC treatment, liquid chemotherapy is applied directly to the abdominal region after cytoreductive surgery.
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) is the most aggressive surgery for pleural mesothelioma.
  • During EPP, the surgical team removes the affected lung, the entire pleura, and either part or all of the pericardium and diaphragm.
  • Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) is another surgery for pleural mesothelioma. This operation spares the lung and focuses on removing the pleura. In P/D, doctors may also remove part or all of the pericardium and diaphragm.

The two chemotherapy drugs approved for mesothelioma are cisplatin and pemetrexed. They’re most effective when used together.

  • Radiation is a common treatment for pleural mesothelioma.
  • Palliative mesothelioma treatment options are available to patients. These involve draining fluid and relieving pain. The options include thoracentesis (drains fluid from the pleura) and pleurodesis (drains fluid from the pleura and closes the cavity permanently).

Mesothelioma Statistics on Prognosis and Life Expectancy

Your prognosis and life expectancy depends largely on the type of mesothelioma you have. Other factors are your age, gender and cell type. Another significant factor in mesothelioma statistics on prognosis and life expectancy is which treatment you receive and where you receive it.

Radiation icon with fact text that states that Radiation prior to surgury has a 71% survival rate
Radiation icon with fact text that states that Radiation prior to surgury has a 71% survival rate
Radiation icon with fact text that states that Radiation prior to surgury has a 71% survival rate
  • The general prognosis for pleural mesothelioma is 11-20 months.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma patients usually have a better prognosis, with many people surviving for at least three years.

PROGNOSIS BY CELL TYPES

EPITHELIOID MESOTHELIOMA

has the best prognosis and life expectancy: 55 months for peritoneal mesothelioma and 19 months for pleural mesothelioma.

BIPHASIC MESOTHELIOMA

has a median prognosis of 13 months for both types.

SARCOMATOID CELLS

carry the poorest prognosis: 13 months for peritoneal mesothelioma and 8 months for pleural mesothelioma.

  • In one study, EPP surgery for pleural mesothelioma extended survival by up to two years.
  • P/D spares the lung, making it more appealing to many patients. In one study, almost half of people survived for at least three years.
  • Cytoreduction plus HIPEC can help peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Around 60% of patients live for at least three years after this procedure. Close to half of patients live for five or more years.
  • Radiation prior to surgery has a 71% three-year survival rate.

Asbestos Facts and Statistics

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral used due to its resistance to heat, fire and chemicals. It’s also durable and can keep buildings safe for decades.

Asbestos is dangerous when disturbed because it’s made up of sharp, weightless fibers. These fibers float in the air and are easily inhaled or swallowed.

The most common way people are exposed to asbestos is through their jobs. Other ways are through secondary asbestos exposure and asbestos in their homes.

Globe icon with text fact stating that 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in the workplace
Globe icon with text fact stating that 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in the workplace
Globe icon with text fact stating that 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in the workplace
  • Approximately 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos in the workplace.
  • Asbestos kills 12,000-15,000 people per year in the United States.
  • The U.S. military relied on asbestos products. Some ways a veteran may have been exposed is from mining, shipyard work, piping, electrical work or demolition.

Asbestos is found in insulation, roofing shingles, drywall, joint compound mixtures, floor tiles, gaskets, electrical wiring and panels, boiler rooms, military ships and vessels, and standard vehicle components (such as brake pads).

Asbestos was used to make toasters, hair dryers, baking ovens and more appliances.

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Pickaxe icon with text fact that states that mining for asbestos ended in 2002
Pickaxe icon with text fact that states that mining for asbestos ended in 2002
Pickaxe icon with text fact that states that mining for asbestos ended in 2002
  • Mining for asbestos in the United States officially ended in 2002, but the country hasn’t banned the mineral. Nearly 70 countries have either partially or fully banned asbestos.
  • Combining 2018 and 2019, the U.S. imported and used approximately 850 tons of asbestos.
  • There are six types of asbestos: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite. The three most common forms of asbestos are chrysotile (white asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown/grey asbestos).
  • Crocidolite is considered the most harmful type because its fibers are long and thin. All types can enter the human body and puncture cellular linings.
  • Tremolite asbestos can mix with talc, which is a natural mineral used for cosmetics and baby powders. Asbestos in talc has put millions of consumers in danger.
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