Mesothelioma is a deadly and frightening cancer that affects the lives of more than 2,000 new individuals each year in the U.S. alone. The survival rate of individuals diagnosed with any form of mesothelioma cancer other than a localized, early-stage form, remains poor.
There are a number of factors involved in determining the life expectancy of mesothelioma cancer patients, and every patient has a unique case. Because medical professionals are constantly searching for advances in treatment options and ways to increase the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients, the life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient is likely to be better today than it was five years ago.
For mesothelioma cancer patients, the median life expectancy – that is, the high point on a bell curve – is 4 to 18 months. However, an individual patient’s case has much more to consider. Some patients may end up surviving mesothelioma for a longer period of time, while others may have a shorter lifespan following diagnosis.
Many Mesothelioma Cases Have Been Missed
In the U.S., the survival rate for mesothelioma patients has been studied for only about the past 20 years, although people have been contracting mesothelioma since at least the turn of the century. A fundamental problem with estimating the mesothelioma survival rate is that for most of the 20th century, mesothelioma was very frequently missed as the cause of death. Another problem that has hindered the gathering of data that could have been used to more accurately determine mesothelioma survival rates is the number of cases previously misdiagnosed as a different type of cancer.
Five-Year Mesothelioma Survival Rate: Nine Percent
Most statistics for cancer survival focus on the percentage of patients who survive for one, two, three, four, and five years after their diagnosis. The same is true when determining mesothelioma survival rates. For example, the overall five-year survival rate for patients with mesothelioma diagnosed between 1998 and 2002 was about nine percent; that is, of all of the patients identified as having been diagnosed with mesothelioma during that period, about nine out of 100 lived for five more years.
List of Top Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Factors
Data describing survival rates are simply averages that are drawn from large patient populations and cannot be used to predict how long a particular mesothelioma patient will live. Perhaps more important are the many factors that strongly influence how long a patient with cancer will survive. The factors that affect the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients include:
- The stage of the mesothelioma – that is, how advanced it is.
- The types of mesothelioma – peritoneal, pleural, or pericardial.
- The size of the tumor or spread of tumor cells.
- Whether the mesothelioma is newly diagnosed or has returned.
- Whether the mesothelioma is localized or advanced (spreading).
- The age, general health, and medical history of the patient.
- What types of treatment are feasible for the patient.
Stages of Mesothelioma Cancer – Stage 4,3,2,1
The stages of mesothelioma cancer are an important indicator of how long a patient can expect to live. Because the symptoms of mesothelioma cancer during its early stages often resemble those of other common ailments such as bronchitis and pneumonia, many mesothelioma patients are misdiagnosed. Often, by the time it is discovered, the patients are in the throes of advanced mesothelioma stages. Life expectancy at this point may be shorter due the difficulty of treating the cancer when it is in its more advanced stages.
Although a cure for mesothelioma cancer has not yet been discovered, there are various mesothelioma treatment options available to help improve a person’s mesothelioma prognosis. Life expectancy – particularly for someone who received early stage diagnosis – may be extended with the right treatment.
The Butchart System is the oldest and most commonly used mesothelioma cancer staging system. Its measurement of the mesothelioma stages is primarily based on the extent of the tumor mass. Butchart System divides mesothelioma into four stages:
- Stage I – Mesothelioma cancer is seen in the right or left side of the chest area, or pleura cavity, and may also be found in the diaphragm. Also known as Stage 1.
- Stage II – Mesothelioma cancer has invaded the chest lining and reaches the esophagus, heart, or pleura on both sides. Lymph nodes may also be affected. Also know as Stage 2.
- Stage III – Mesothelioma cancer has passed the diaphragm and entered the abdominal cavity or peritoneum. Lymph nodes beyond the chest may also be affected. Also known as Stage 3.
- Stage IV – Mesothelioma cancer has spread through the bloodstream to other organs. At this stage, it is metastatic mesothelioma. Also known as Stage 4.
More about Stage IV
Once your cancer has advanced to stage IV, there usually is no option to remove all of the tumors by surgery. In fact, some patients may benefit from having fewer surgeries at this point. The surgeon may decide to just focus on the larger, most problematic tumors so that you can breathe more easily and have less pain.
Chemotherapy is often used on stage IV mesothelioma; it still has the ability to slow the growth of tumors and may even be able to shrink them. A study at Wayne State University in 2016 determined that chemotherapy could more than double life expectancy for people with mesothelioma, even those in stage IV. The most common chemotherapy for pleural mesothelioma in all stages is cisplatin or carboplatin that is combined with Alimta.
Radiation therapy is not always used in stage IV, but your doctor may decide to use it in some cases. You may be able to have the size of the tumors reduced with radiation, and this can reduce pressure in the chest and decrease pain and difficulty breathing.
If you suspect you have been exposed to asbestos and would like more information regarding testing for early stages of mesothelioma, contact us at Mesothelioma Treatment Centers today.
Another major factor in life expectancy for mesothelioma is the type of cancer it is and where the tumors are located. Different variations of mesothelioma are identified by where the cancer occurs in the body.
Asbestos cancer tumors that form in the lining of the lungs are called pleural mesothelioma. The average survival rate for this type of mesothelioma is only eight months. Tumors that form in the abdomen are called peritoneal mesothelioma, and the average survival is only six months if not treated.
Effective cancer treatments can extend the five year survival for these types of mesothelioma. People who have the pleural version of the disease can live at least a year if they have chemotherapy. Some patients who are in the early stages of the disease who get multimodal therapy with cancer surgery can live two or three years.
People who have peritoneal mesothelioma who have surgery and heated chemotherapy may live more than three years.
The rarest type of mesothelioma is pericardial mesothelioma, and it affects the lining that surrounds the heart. People with this type usually live no more than 10 months. This type of mesothelioma is difficult to treat because the heart is too sensitive of an organ to tolerate the common treatments for mesothelioma.
Non Tumor Factors
As noted above, there are several tumor related factors that affect life expectancy for mesothelioma. There are other aspects that are not related to the type of tumor that also are factors in life expectancy.
For instance, one of the important non tumor factors is referred to as ‘performance.’ This refers to one’s overall health other than the cancer condition itself. If you are generally and fit and have a high level of activity, you are more likely to live longer. Most studies have shown that your performance status with pleural mesothelioma can have a major effect on your survival with cancer. The more fit and active you are, the more likely that your body will be able to handle the aggressive cancer therapies needed to combat mesothelioma.
Second, men historically have been exposed to higher levels asbestos on their jobs than women. Because of greater exposure, men are at least four times more likely to get mesothelioma than women. Studies suggest that women who have epithelial mesothelioma live longer than men with the same condition. Researchers are unsure why this is the case.
Third, mesothelioma patients who are younger have better treatment options than those who are older and not as healthy. This is because as we get older, our bodies are less able to recover from aggressive cancer therapies. As we age, we also are more likely to suffer from other health problems that prevent the use of the best cancer treatments.
Fourth, there are some biomarkers and cells in the blood that can affect life expectancy. Several clinical studies suggest that thrombocytosis or high blood platelet count and leukocytosis or high white blood cell count before surgery are generally associated with a lower life expectancy. Also having the biomarkers COX-2, antigen p27, VEGF and glycoprotein 90K can affect life expectancy with mesothelioma.
Early Detection, Aggressive Mesothelioma Treatment
Some studies have indicated that among patients whose mesothelioma is revealed early and treated aggressively, about half will have a life expectancy of two years, and one-fifth will have a life expectancy of five years. Among patients whose mesothelioma is advanced, only five percent can expect to live another five years. This means that early stage detection increases your chances of surviving mesothelioma for longer than if it is detected in its later stages.
Many medical studies suggest that multimodal therapies have the best impact on life expectancy for mesothelioma. Multimodal therapies include several different treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. In many cancer patients, it is found that attacking the cancer by several means at once provides the best outcomes in terms of five year survivability.
To qualify for multimodal therapies for mesothelioma, you generally need to be in stage 1 or 2. A few stage 3 patients may qualify too if they are in good health otherwise and have a biphasic or epithelial tumor.
Another treatment option for some mesothelioma patients is to receive experimental treatment in a new clinical trial. Cancer researchers are constantly trying new drugs and methods of treatment. Clinical trials for mesothelioma cancer will allow patients to try new, cutting edge treatments that may prolong survival.
Before you consider taking part in a clinical trial for cancer research, it is important to know that clinical trials carry some degree of risk to your health. But for some patients, the potential benefits of the new treatment outweigh the risks. You can make this determination of benefit vs. risk in consultation with your doctors.
There currently are several new therapies being tried to slow the progression of mesothelioma cancer. Some of them have shown substantial promise in boosting long term life expectancy. Some of these include immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy or PDT. Some new drug involving gene therapy may eventually provide promise for stopping the advance of mesothelioma.
Some of the other types of treatments that have been tried in recent years for mesothelioma patients are:
- High dose radiation: Italian doctors have done studies that suggest impressive results from high dose radiation treatments after aggressive pleurectomy and decortication surgery. The reported two year survival rate was 70%.
- Alternative therapies: Some studies indicate that mesothelioma patients can benefit from other therapies that include acupuncture, massage, yoga and meditation. When these therapies are added to traditional chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, life expectancy and quality of life may be improved.
- Diet and nutrition: If you maintain a healthy diet or change to a healthier diet after diagnosis, you may improve your life expectancy. Adding better nutrition to your treatment plan can reduce side effects, reduce stress and improve treatment response.
Get Examined, Mesothelioma Diagnosis
The importance of diagnosing mesothelioma cancer early cannot be overemphasized. If you worked with asbestos at some point in your life, or if you were exposed to a significant amount of asbestos in a non-work setting, you should see a physician about the possibility of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases now, even if you have not had any symptoms. If you wait until you are experiencing the symptoms of mesothelioma cancer, you’re missing a chance to catch the disease early, which may improve your asbestos mesothelioma life expectancy. If you’ve already been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, be sure to ask your physician about all possible treatment options.
Get Legal Help from Asbestos Attorneys
After you get medical help, the next most important thing you can do is speak with an experienced mesothelioma attorney regarding your legal options. Due to your exposure to asbestos you may be eligible for financial compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, funeral costs, and emotional pain and suffering caused by your illness. An attorney who has experience with mesothelioma cases can help. Contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers today to schedule your private consultation with a mesothelioma attorney in your area. A lawyer will thoroughly evaluate your case, including your predicted mesothelioma life expectancy after diagnosis, and will help you to fight for the justice that you deserve and the compensation your family will need.
More Information about Mesothelioma Cancer
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or would like to learn more about asbestos-related diseases, contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers today.