Mesothelioma survival rates are steadily improving due to new treatments being developed. Survival rate statistics provide more information to patients about their prognosis.

Estimating Mesothelioma Survival Time

Patients with mesothelioma are surviving longer than ever before. One key component of survival rates are the statistics that support them. These statistics help explain a patient’s prognosis and determine their outcome. They accomplish this by examining how long other patients with a similar diagnosis survive.

Underreported Factors Affecting Survival Rates

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    Current Survival Results

    Survival rates don’t always reflect current data. Doctors examine the results of people treated in the past in order to provide patients with survival rates. These survival rates only offer a glimpse into the past, not the future.

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    New Treatment Options

    Survival rates cannot account for new treatment options. In many cases these treatments were not available at the time the data was collected. Mesothelioma treatment options have been developing quickly through clinical trials in the past decade. Get connected to clinical trials for innovative treatments.

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    Misleading Statistics

    Survival rates can be misleading because they include patients who didn’t receive treatment or were treated by general oncologists rather than mesothelioma specialists.


Patients and families should remember that all statistics (including survival rates) have a degree of error. While mesothelioma survival rates tend to be low, overall survival rates are constantly improving due to innovative treatment options.


Doctors record survival rates at yearly intervals to provide a guideline for life expectancy. However, many patients live longer or shorter than these intervals. Mesothelioma survival rates based on location of the tumor may be misinterpreted since this disease can be easily mistaken for other types of cancer. If a patient is correctly diagnosed before the cancer reaches later stages, survival rates may not apply.

A study by the National Cancer Institute concluded the one-year survival rate for pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma patients is relatively even at about 40%.

However, following the second year after diagnosis, survival rates for pleural patients drop considerably (11%), while survival rates for peritoneal patients only experienced a small decrease (35%).

This suggests it is equally hard to detect pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma early enough to effectively treat the disease. These numbers also show treatment for a peritoneal patient is more effective than treatment for a pleural patient.

Due to the rarity of pericardial mesothelioma, there are no conclusive studies to show survival rates for these patients. It is only known that the majority of patients (90%) with pericardial mesothelioma were diagnosed after death.


Survival rates based on stage are particularly important for determining a prognosis. There is a strong correlation between mesothelioma stage and patient life span. Patients diagnosed at the early stages of mesothelioma (with less metastasis) have significantly longer survival rates.

At age 65 or older, survival rates of mesothelioma patients are 5 times better at stage 1 than at stage 4.

Mesothelioma is more often diagnosed in the later stages because of the lack of specific symptoms of mesothelioma. Survival rates at this stage are lower because the cancer is more advanced and more difficult to treat. However, there are numerous treatment options for patients at any stage. New, noninvasive treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, are frequently being developed and improved in ongoing clinical trials.

Cell Type & Histology

Mesothelioma can develop as one of three histological cell types or variations: epithelioid, biphasic or sarcomatoid. Cell type is an important factor in survival rates. Generally, epithelioid mesothelioma has the best survival rate because it reacts better to treatment. Sarcomatoid has the poorest rate due to its ability to spread quickly.

There is a wide range of studies that show the survival rates based on the cell types of patients. Dr. David Sugarbaker completed a study in 1996 involving 120 mesothelioma patients, which illuminated how important cell type is to survival rates in patients undergoing multimodal therapy. It is important to keep in mind multimodal therapy is the most successful type of treatment for mesothelioma and other studies have varying survival rates. However, patients with an epithelioid cell type tend to do markedly better than other cell types.

Survival Rate by Cell Type After Multimodal Therapy

Survival rate statistics for biphasic cell types aren’t consistent because the ratio of epithelioid cells to sarcomatoid cells varies with each patient. However, patients with biphasic mesothelioma who have a higher percentage of epithelioid cells usually live longer. This complies with the survival rates based on epithelioid and sarcomatoid mesothelioma. 

Each cell type is unique, which is why patients should find a mesothelioma specialist to treat them. Mesothelioma specialists can offer specific expertise to their patients. Get connected to a specialist using our free Doctor Match program.

Age and Gender

Age is an important factor in determining an individual patient’s prognosis. Survival rates for mesothelioma vary depending on the age of the patient during diagnosis. Younger patients tend to have higher survival rates. For example, patients who are diagnosed before the age of 65 live an average of three months longer than those diagnosed between the ages of 65 and 74. The overall health of a patient predicts how well they will respond to treatment. 

Older patients do not necessarily have a poorer life expectancy.

Personal health plays a huge role in the life expectancy of all cancer patients. An older patient in good health may have a better life expectancy than a younger patient in poor health. Finding an experienced mesothelioma doctor is crucial to improving an older patient’s life expectancy.

Why Do Women Live Longer?

Gender is another factor that affects survival rates. The 5-year relative survival rate for women is more than double the rate for men. Recent data shows men have a 6.5% 5-year survival rate and women have a 15.4% rate. Routine health visits often lead to an earlier diagnosis and help account for a higher female survival rate. One study concluded that women visited the doctor nearly 20% more than men.  

This data shows a significant difference in survival rates between men and women, but could be skewed based on occupational exposure. Men traditionally work jobs where factors related to mesothelioma, such as prolonged exposure to asbestos, are much higher than those seen by women. 

Survival Rates After Surgical Treatment

Mesothelioma survival rates are higher among patients who had surgery to remove their tumor. This is because mesothelioma surgeries slow down the tumor’s ability to spread. During surgery blood vessels are also rerouted to prevent metastasis through the bloodstream.

There are 3 surgeries that have greatly increased survival rates:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) – Pleural mesothelioma
  • Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) – Pleural mesothelioma
  • Cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC – Peritoneal mesothelioma

Patients eligible for these surgeries are usually those who are in stage 1 or 2. However, late stage patients who apply for clinical trials may be eligible for surgical treatment.

Patients who have a combined treatment of surgery and other treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, experienced marked improvements in survival. The common survival times after one of these surgeries is typically double the survival time of patients who didn’t have surgery.

Beat the Odds - Improve Your Survival Rate

Survival rates are used to give patients an approximation of how long people with a similar diagnosis survived. They are based on a range of factors from tumor location to the patient’s age. Survival rates may give patients a clearer picture of their diagnosis so they can develop a treatment plan best suited for them.

“I knew I was a fighter and could handle whatever happened.” – Mesothelioma Survivor, Jodi Page

Many patients have a survival time different than survival rates initially indicate, sometimes regardless of the treatment received. With this in mind, patients should take survival rate statistics with a grain of salt and not be discouraged. All patients are unique, creating the possibility that these rates may not apply to them.

As such, survival rates are only a guideline and can be misinterpreted. Learn more about beating the odds in our free Mesothelioma Guide.