Mesothelioma is a type of cancer correlated with asbestos exposure. It forms on the protective lining of various parts of the body, usually the lungs or the abdomen, though it does affect other areas as well. There are two types of cells the cancer can affect, resulting in epithelial mesothelioma and sarcomatoid mesothelioma. In this article, we will look at the difference between these two types and what it means for your prognosis.
We will also discuss symptoms, treatment and survival rates, so you can feel armed with information in your fight against cancer. While epithelial mesothelioma is easier to treat than sarcomatoid, the most resistant form of this disease, the outlook can still feel fairly shocking to those who have received a diagnosis. That’s why it’s important to know everything you can about the disease, to give yourself the best chance of fighting it and lengthening your remaining lifespan.

Epithelial Mesothelioma Symptoms

It is important, first and foremost, to recognize the symptoms of mesothelioma so that when they appear, you can share this information with your healthcare provider. Unfortunately, mesothelioma has a long latency period, which means it is usually several decades (between 20 and 50 years) between the time of exposure and the time that symptoms first appear. This can make it difficult to pinpoint symptoms and identify the disease early, as it is often confused with other terminal illnesses or even common viral infections.

Epithelial mesothelioma has very subtle symptoms at first, including

  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of face and neck
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

As the disease progresses, you may notice blood when you cough, dizziness, fatigue, anemia and weight loss. If any of these symptoms persist for longer than a day or two in response to a cold, you should absolutely see a physician. They may be indicators of a very serious disease, and early treatment can help you live much longer than catching it late. Unfortunately, epithelial mesothelioma does often go undiagnosed for a considerable amount of time, which affects your prognosis, or outlook.

Epithelial Mesothelioma Prognosis

Your prognosis depends largely on your diagnosis, which is the state of your disease at the current time. We will discuss the factors that go into an accurate diagnosis below. For now, know that it is very difficult for your medical team to make an accurate prediction about the course of your disease. Cancer is unpredictable, meaning you may get a prognosis of only a year but then live five, or be told you can probably live several years, only to succumb to the illness in just a few short months.

Epithelial mesothelioma, which affects the cells that make up the tissue lining the lungs and other organs, is much easier to treat than sarcomatoid mesothelioma, which affects cells used in connective tissue. If you have epithelial mesothelioma, that will certainly lengthen your prognosis compared to sarcomatoid mesothelioma, which is very resistant to all treatments.

While the survival rate for mesothelioma is still usually a few years at most, the prognosis is getting better over time as researchers and physicians develop new treatments and get better at identifying the disease.

Epithelial Mesothelioma Diagnosis

The most basic factor in a mesothelioma diagnosis is what type of cells it affects. As explained above, epithelial mesothelioma affects lining cells, while sarcomatoid mesothelioma affects connective tissue. Your diagnosis will determine which type of cancer you have, or if you have a mixed version, which affects both types of cells and around 35 percent of patients.


Other factors involved in your mesothelioma diagnosis include where the cancer is located. If it is on the lining of the lungs, it is called pleural mesothelioma, and is one of the easiest to treat. If it affects the sac around the heart, it is pericardial mesothelioma, and life expectancy is quite a bit shorter. Mesothelioma that affects the stomach or abdominal cavity is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. Epithelial mesothelioma can be in any of these locations.

Epithelial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Much like making a prognosis, physicians can only make so accurate a guess about life expectancy. Because so many factors are involved in how the disease progresses – health history, family history, other medical conditions, lifestyle, where the mesothelioma is located, at what stage of the disease it is caught, and how well various treatment options work – it is very difficult to say how long you will live.

Most patients, however, die within the first two years after receiving their diagnosis. Roughly 40 percent survive longer than a year, while only about 20 percent live longer than two years. By five years, only 8 percent of people are still alive.

That said, you are much likelier to live a few years or more if you catch the disease early, which is why recognizing symptoms is so important. So is understanding the cause of the disease.

Epithelial Mesothelioma Causes

Epithelial mesothelioma is almost exclusively found in individuals who were exposed to high levels of asbestos earlier in their lives, typically between two and five decades prior to diagnosis. While there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure, the greater the amounts of asbestos you were exposed to and the longer you spent being exposed to it, the higher your chances of getting mesothelioma.

Most people were exposed to asbestos on the job, while others may have been exposed to it through their homes, if insulation was not properly covered. Sadly, asbestos can also be carried on clothing, which means the families of workers who were exposed to asbestos may also develop mesothelioma.

Note that while smoking is not a primary cause of mesothelioma, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure raises your chances of getting mesothelioma to 90 percent. If you have been exposed to asbestos in your life, you should quit smoking immediately, especially if you have been diagnosed with epithelial mesothelioma (or sarcomatoid mesothelioma, for that matter).

Epithelial Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that occurs in microscopically long fibers. These fibers are liable to breakage when disturbed, and easily become airborne. They then enter the lungs of workers, eventually making their way to the lining, where they lodge and cause cancer over time.

If you want to minimize asbestos exposure, and therefore minimize your chances of developing or worsening mesothelioma, there are a number of steps you can take, including wearing a mask in asbestos-containing environments. If you have already been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should explore your treatment options.

Epithelial Mesothelioma Treatment

While there is no cure for epithelial mesothelioma, treatment can help you live a longer and more comfortable life. Treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy, which involves pumping up your own immune system to fight the disease. Patients have especially good results when treatment options are combined.

Treatment is much more effective in the early stages. By the later stages of the disease, the best bet is palliative care, which will reduce pain and make the remaining months as pleasant as possible.

You could also consider extrapleural pneumonectomy, which requires the removal of the pleura, pericardium, diaphragm and lung on the side of the mesothelioma, and may help significantly extend your life.

Epithelial Mesothelioma Statistics

Understanding the statistics surrounding mesothelioma can help you understand the disease and make the best possible options for your health. The National Institutes of Health estimate that more than 11 million people have been exposed to asbestos in the mid-20th century, between 2 and 10 percent of which will develop mesothelioma. The disease claimed more than 35,000 people between 1999 and 2013, and each year an additional 2,000 to 3,000 more cases.

Get Legal Assistance Today

A diagnosis of epithelial mesothelioma can be overwhelming. This is especially true with the stress that comes with medical bills and attempting to care for a family. Consider discussing your epithelioid mesothelioma with a lawyer to gain helpful information about compensation. An attorney skilled in cases involving epithelial mesothelioma can help ease some of the anxiety that comes with the situation. Learn all that you can about the diagnosis; contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers for assistance.

Epithelial Mesothelioma (English) / Mesotelioma Epitelial (Spanish)