What’s the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma Patients?
This term summarizes the survival and mortality rates in groups of people. The meaning of life expectancy is not just a hypothetical estimate of how long a person should expect to live, but the age at which members of a group can expect to pass away. It’s also a part of a prognosis (i.e., the outlook of how cancer will progress).
Doctors can determine this estimation for mesothelioma patients by observing how long other patients live after their diagnosis. The evaluation includes treatment options and success rates along with other factors.
A doctor’s prognosis for mesothelioma patients generally requires making assumptions based on other patients. However, each case of mesothelioma is unique, making it difficult for doctors to pinpoint. There are patients that live longer than their estimated life expectancy.
Veterans who were diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for VA compensation. To find out if you qualify, speak with a patient advocate today.
What Influences Expectancy?
Several factors influence this number. Cell type, the stage of mesothelioma, and tumor location are factors out of the control of the patient. However, controlled factors such as undergoing treatment and living a healthier lifestyle can significantly impact life expectancy.
- Age – Younger patients tend to undergo more aggressive treatments better than older patients, resulting in a longer life expectancy. However, doctors diagnose most mesothelioma patients over the age of 65.
- Cell type – Mesothelioma tumors contain two different cell types: epithelioid and sarcomatoid. Sometimes, tumors can include both cell types (known as biphasic). Epithelioid tumors start in the cells that line an organ, while sarcomatoid tumors begin in the bone or soft tissues. Patients with epithelioid tumors tend to have a better prognosis because the tumors don’t spread as quickly and respond better to treatment.
- Sex – Male mesothelioma patients generally have a poorer prognosis than female mesothelioma patients. Most mesothelioma patients are men who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Women make up a small percentage of mesothelioma diagnoses. Exposure likely happens when women come into contact with asbestos in the home, through secondary exposure.
- Treatment – As the disease becomes better understood by researchers and doctors, treatment options significantly improve over time. Patients in earlier stages are better candidates for curative treatment options, while those in later stages tend to receive palliative care instead.
- Tumor location – Patients who have peritoneal mesothelioma tend to qualify for better treatment options than those with pleural or pericardial mesothelioma, resulting in a better overall prognosis.
- Stage – Doctors commonly use the stage of cancer as a determinant of life expectancy. The location of cancer, where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body typically determine the stage. The life expectancies for each stage of mesothelioma are:
|Stage 1||21+ months|
|Stage 2||19 months|
|Stage 3||16 months|
|Stage 4||12 months|
How Can I Improve My Life Expectancy?
While there’s no guaranteed way to do this, the best way to help improve a mesothelioma prognosis is to attain the appropriate treatment for your stage of cancer. Surgery alone has proven to increase the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients. An experienced specialist will be able to explore different options and recommend the best one.
The median life expectancy for stage 4 mesothelioma is around one year after chemotherapy treatment starts, compared to seven months without it.
Veterans with mesothelioma can take action without affecting their benefits.
Clinical Trials and Emerging Treatments
Traditional treatments, like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, aren’t always an option for some patients. Emerging treatments and clinical trials are alternative ways to help improve a prognosis. Immunotherapy has also shown promising results in mesothelioma patients.
Prognosis Without Treatment
Receiving treatment is an essential part of extending life expectancy for mesothelioma patients. However, cancer generally advances quickly, and some patients may choose not to receive treatment. The prognosis for pleural mesothelioma without treatment is about eight months. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients survive about six months without treatment. However, peritoneal patients respond well to treatment and have a 50 percent chance of living longer than five years when they choose to undergo treatment.
Life Expectancy vs. Prognosis and Survival Rate
While life expectancy is an estimation of how long a patient is likely to live after a diagnosis, many people confuse it with survival rate. Doctors determine the survival rate by calculating the average amount of time people with the same type and stage of cancer survive. Their estimation takes into consideration multiple factors, rather than just the percentage of the average survival rate.
The prognosis of a cancer patient is similar to life expectancy but involves more than an estimation of how long they can live with the disease. Prognosis takes into consideration the anticipated progression of the disease including the growth of new tumors and the body’s response to treatment.