Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that develops from the mesothelium – a thin layer of tissue that surrounds many organs. Typically, it results from asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma can be pleural, peritoneal or pericardial. In 2013, there were 50,000 new mesothelioma diagnoses. One of the main problems is that the condition develops without symptoms until it progresses to an incurable stage.
The mesothelioma life expectancy typically ranges from 12 to 21 months after detection. Needless to say, there are exceptions. The life expectancy depends on the cancer stage, as well as the treatment and lifestyle choices that patients make.
Life Expectancy Depends on Stage
The earlier mesothelioma is diagnosed, the higher the life expectancy is to be. Since therapies are improving all the time, some of the patients can have years rather than months to live. According to experts, generalized life expectancy figures are difficult to come up with because each case is highly specific. One thing is certain – early detection is crucial in the case of such aggressive cancers.
Patients who have stage I mesothelioma have a median life expectancy of 21 or more months. The number goes down to 19 months for stage II cancer and 16 months for stage III cancer. When mesothelioma is detected in stage IV, the median life expectancy is 12 months.
In the case of stage I and II cancer, there is little or no spreading (metastases) of the cancerous tissue. As a result, treatments can be targeted better and they’ll deliver much more impressive results. During stage III and IV, mesothelioma expands beyond the original location. As a result, treatment becomes much more challenging or even impossible.
Patient Age and Mesothelioma Location
Two more factors that have an impact on the mesothelioma life expectancy include the location of the cancer and the age of the patient. Typically, patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma have a life expectancy of 19 to 21 months in stages I and II and a life expectancy of up to 16 months in stages III and IV. In comparison, people who have peritoneal mesothelioma and undergo surgical treatment can extend their life expectancy to five years or more.
Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart and it’s the rarest of the three forms. It accounts for about one percent of all the mesothelioma diagnoses and it’s linked to the shortest life expectancy. People suffering from pericardial mesothelioma have a median life expectancy of six months after diagnosis. The location of the cancer makes the treatment options highly limited.
As already mentioned, age is another important factor in terms of life expectancy. Younger mesothelioma patients tend to live longer than the ones diagnosed with the condition later on in life. According to one clinical study, people diagnosed with mesothelioma before the age of 65 live on the average four months longer than the patients diagnosed with the condition at an older age. The life expectancy is shortest among patients aged 75 and older which is typically, only four months.
There are several other factors potentially affecting the survival rate. People who have no history of smoking, low hemoglobin levels, low platelet counts and no symptoms tend to live longer than other diagnosed patients.