Mesothelioma survival rate helps doctors provide a prognosis and allows patients to make preparations based on their diagnosis. It's an average or percentage based on past cases of the cancer. The survival rates for mesothelioma are improving due to new treatments.

What Is a Survival Rate?

Survival rate is the percentage of patients who reach a specific survival benchmark with a deadly disease. It’s usually measured in increments of every six months or one year. The measurement begins either once the patient is diagnosed or after a specific treatment. It ends when the patient passes away. Doctors then combine multiple cases to form a survival rate.

The survival rate is based on past cases. Therefore, it’s not a prediction of survival for a current or future case. It’s rather a benchmark for doctors and patients.

Survival rate can be broken down into age groups, gender, type, treatment and more. This gives a more accurate prediction for each individual case.

What Is the Survival Rate for Mesothelioma?

Unfortunately, the survival rate for mesothelioma is poor. The one-year survival rate of pleural mesothelioma is around 50%. Peritoneal mesothelioma has a similar one-year percentage.

The rates decrease for longer survival. However, treatment can help improve the chances.

The rate increases dramatically after successful surgery. It improves incrementally for other therapies, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy and tumor treating fields.

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 this data. They only offer a glimpse into the past, not the future.

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    New Treatment Options

    Survival rates do not account for new treatment options. Many of 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. For instance, immunotherapy outperforms chemotherapy in survival by four months. The one-year and two-year rates are also better for immunotherapy.

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    Misleading Statistics

    General survival averages can be misleading because they include patients who didn’t receive treatment. They also include patients treated by general oncologists rather than mesothelioma specialists. Lastly, they include cases affected by patient-specific factors, such as age, gender and poor health.

Patients and families should remember that all statistics have a degree of error.

Location of Tumors

A study by the National Cancer Institute found that peritoneal mesothelioma has a better long-term survival average.

Around 35% survive for two years while only 18% of pleural mesothelioma cases survive that long. The five-year rate is 18% for peritoneal mesothelioma and 5% for pleural mesothelioma.

These numbers show treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma is more effective than treatment for pleural mesothelioma.

Some pleural mesothelioma cases may outlast peritoneal mesothelioma cases. While the location matters, it’s not the only factor in determining survival. The rates, or averages, do provide more hope to peritoneal cases.

Stage

Survival percentages change for each stage of mesothelioma. There is a strong correlation between mesothelioma stage and patient life span. Patients diagnosed at the early stages (with less metastasis) have significantly longer survival rates.

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

Mesothelioma is more often diagnosed in the later stages because of the lack of obvious symptoms of mesothelioma. Survival data in stages 3 and 4 are lower because the cancer is more advanced and more difficult to treat.

According to one study, the two-year survival rate for stage 1 is around 60% after surgery. For stage 4, the two-year survival rate after surgery is around 20%. Stages 2 and 3 are closer to 40%.

Cell Type and 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. Generally, epithelioid mesothelioma has the best survival rate because it reacts better to treatment. Sarcomatoid has the poorest rate due to spreading quickly.

Dr. David Sugarbaker completed a study in 1996 involving 120 mesothelioma patients, which illuminated how important cell type is to survival. It is important to keep in mind multimodal therapy is the most successful type of treatment for mesothelioma and other studies have varying results.

Survival Rate by Cell Type After Multimodal Therapy

Survival statistics for biphasic cell types aren’t consistent. The ratio of epithelioid cells to sarcomatoid cells affects survival. A higher percentage of epithelioid cells usually has a better outcome.

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.

Age and Gender

Age is an important factor in determining a patient’s prognosis. 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.

Why Do Women Live Longer?

Gender is another factor affecting how long patients live with mesothelioma. The five-year rate for women (15.4%) is more than double the percentage for men (6.5%). Routine health visits often lead to an earlier mesothelioma diagnosis and partly explain a higher female survival rate. One study concluded that women visited the doctor nearly 20% more than men.

Men also worked jobs involving prolonged asbestos exposure. This factor can affect survival due to more sharp asbestos fibers entering the body.

Survival After Surgery

Mesothelioma survival is better usually among patients who had surgery. This is because mesothelioma surgery removes most of the tumors, causing a significant decrease in disease volume. The decreased volume of the disease means less of the body is overrun with tumors, and fewer organs are in immediate danger. This may not cure the disease entirely, but it does grant the patient more time before the disease grows again to the same level of thread.

Surgery is like pressure lifted from the body’s shoulders. Instead of fighting a massive cancer, the body must fight a smaller cancer. So survival is much easier.

These three mesothelioma surgeries have greatly increased survival rates:

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

Patients who undergo surgery and receive other treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, have better chances. The common survival times after surgery is typically double the survival time of patients who didn’t have surgery.

Beat the Odds - Improve Your Survival Chances

Survival rates give patients an approximation of how long people with a similar diagnosis lived. They are based on a range of factors from tumor location to the patient’s age. These statistics 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 survive longer or shorter than the rate applying to their cancer diagnosis. With this in mind, patients should take statistics lightly and not be discouraged.

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