Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Cancer survival rates express the average amount of patients who live a specified length of time after being diagnosed with cancer. Most rates measure survival time at 5 or 10 years (i.e., 5-year survival rate). Yet, mesothelioma is often diagnosed late, meaning patients may have poorer prognoses. Consequently, mesothelioma cancer survival statistics are sometimes listed as 2- or 3-year survival rates.

Each lung cancer cell type has its own survival rate. Rates are based on the survival times of patients who have had cancer and are generally represented by a percentage. Each patient’s survival time starts at the date of their diagnosis.

For all types of mesotheliomas, the average 5-year survival rate is 10%. In other words, about 10% of mesothelioma patients survive 5 years after diagnosis.

Compared to other cancers, mesothelioma cancer survival rates are low. Once tumors begin to grow, mesotheliomas grow and spread quickly. As a result, mesotheliomas diagnosed in later stages have poor prognoses and, subsequently, lower survival rates.

The average survival rate for all types of mesothelioma combined is 10%. This means that about 10% of mesothelioma patients live longer than five years after being diagnosed with cancer. Generally, pleural mesothelioma (tumors growing in the lining surrounding the lungs) is easier to treat when caught early. Peritoneal mesothelioma, in the lining of the abdominal cavity, is known to produce noticeable symptoms like abdominal swelling.

Mesothelioma Type and Stage

Researchers track survival rates for each type of cancer because some cancer cells affect the body differently than others. Additionally, rates are different for each stage of cancer to reflect how spreading cancers affect life expectancy. Typically, advanced stages of cancer have lower rates for survival than early-stage cancers (such as those in stages 0, 1, and 2).

Cancer survival rates can’t tell you how long you have left to live. Rates only portray survival times for patients from 5 years ago (when the data was collected).

The most recent data for malignant mesothelioma cancer comes from diagnoses in 2010 and 2016. Accordingly, patients diagnosed more recently may have higher survival rates. Recent advances in targeted therapy and immunotherapy, for example, improved treatment outcomes in many hard-to-treat and previously untreatable cancers.

Mesothelioma Statistics

The table below lists mesothelioma survival rates by type, according to information from the American Cancer Society. Instead of numbered stages, the organization defines cancers by how far they have spread from the original tumor.

Pleural mesothelioma
SEER* Stage of Cancer 5-Year Relative Survival Rate
Localized 18%
Regional 12%
Distant 7%
Average of all stages combined 10%

*SEER Stages definition: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results

Among the physical sites of asbestos cancers, pleural mesothelioma makes up most mesotheliomas (up to 85% of cases). Peritoneal mesotheliomas account for about 15% of cases. They are usually diagnosed among those with a history of heavy asbestos exposure. Pericardial mesothelioma cases are rare and often diagnosed after death.

In another study published in the 2017 volume of Lung Cancer Int., researched studied survival rates at 1, 2, and 5 years for pleural and peritoneal mesotheliomas.

Site of Mesothelioma 1-Year Survival Rate 2-year 5-year
Pleural (all stages combined) 40% 18% 5%
Localized pleural 41% 19% 6%
Regional pleural 40% 17% 4%
Distant pleural 32% 12% 3%
Peritoneal (all stages combined) 50% 35% 18%
Localized peritoneal 74% 53% 26%
Regional Peritoneal 55% 41% 19%
Distant Peritoneal 40% 26% 11%

The study also separated survival rates for men diagnosed with mesotheliomas between the ages of 30-49 and 50-79. Males who had been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma between the ages of 30 to 49 had the best outcomes (21% 5-year survival rate with distant spread of tumors). Men over 50 with the most advanced cancers had the worst outcomes.

Factors That Affect Survival

A range of factors affects patient survival. Age, overall health, the course of treatment, and even the cancer’s cell type all have an effect. Generally, the body’s ability to heal declines as you age. This natural decline can worsen complications and side effects from cancer therapies for seniors’.

The average age of a mesothelioma diagnosis is 72 years old. However, growing numbers of adults younger than 60 are being diagnosed.

The 3 main cell types found in mesotheliomas include:

  • Epithelial – About 60% of mesotheliomas have this cell type. They’re easier for doctors to recognize, diagnose, and treat with surgery. As such, epithelial mesotheliomas often have better survival outcomes.
  • Fibrous sarcomatoid – About 25% of mesotheliomas have this cell type. While sarcomatoid tumors are more aggressive, they respond favorably to treatment.
  • Biphasic/mixed – About 15% of cases have a mix of cell types. These are more difficult to diagnose as well as treat.

In the U.S., men are more often diagnosed with mesothelioma than women. Historically, men were more likely to encounter high concentrations of asbestos exposure (usually in labor-intensive career fields and manufacturing industries).

Are Survival Rates Higher Today?

Remember: 5-year cancer survival rates are based on data from patients who had a specific type of cancer 5 years ago. The life expectancy for many types of cancer often improves over time as treatment technologies advance. Thus, 1-year, 2-year, and even 5-year survival rates for mesothelioma patients may not accurately reflect the outcome of today’s treatment possibilities.

Targeted therapy for mesothelioma, for instance, has significantly improved doctors’ ability to treat cancer after it has spread throughout the body. Moreover, new surgical and chemotherapy techniques improved treatment for all stages of cancer. Data from five or more years ago cannot take these advances into consideration.

Difference Between Prognosis

Both cancer prognoses and survival rates help patients and their families understand how rapidly tumors progress. Unlike survival rates, a prognosis is individualized for each patient based on the factors affecting their health.

While a prognosis can change after treatment or with changes to the patient’s health, 5-year survival rates only change as new data is released.

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