Life Expectancy for Pleural Mesothelioma Patients
The life expectancy of a person suffering from pleural mesothelioma depends on several factors, but most people diagnosed with this devastating form of cancer die within a year. Though statistics vary (see below), one recognized study reported an average life expectancy of 242 days (after diagnosis) for pleural mesothelioma patients. Pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma life expectancy figures are similar.
Pleural mesothelioma is always fatal. While it is sometimes possible to improve a person's prognosis through cancer treatments and lifestyle changes, such improvements typically only improve mesothelioma life expectancy by a matter of months, not years. In truth, treatment for pleural mesothelioma is often focused more on minimizing unpleasant mesothelioma symptoms and making life more comfortable than on battling the disease.
In light of the grim prognosis for pleural mesothelioma patients, it is very important that you contact a mesothelioma lawyer if you or a family member has been diagnosed with the disease. Pleural mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, which usually occurs due to the negligence of a former employer or other responsible party. An experienced mesothelioma attorney can determine who is legally responsible for your pain and suffering and help you obtain compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other factors related to the disease.
Pleural mesothelioma life expectancy statistics vary, as do mesothelioma statistics in general. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that between 5 and 10 percent of patients survive beyond five years once diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. According to the ACS, the average survival time for the same patients is four to 18 months post-diagnosis.
There are several explanations for the inconsistency in pleural mesothelioma statistics. For one, the disease is caused almost exclusively, if not always, by inhaling asbestos fibers over a sustained period of time. This makes the disease quite rare; only people who have spent time around airborne asbestos particles, and sometimes their families, are affected. You are not alone if you or your loved one worked in the mining, shipping or construction industries and developed pleural mesothelioma decades later.
Another reason for the discrepancy in mesothelioma statistics is that they often rely on past cases. Mesothelioma treatment has changed over the years due to discoveries by scientists studying mesothelioma, and this has led to a modest improvement in the life expectancy of some patients, in turn leading to statistical discrepancies.
While the inconsistency in statistics can be frustrating to victims of malignant mesothelioma and their families, there is a slightly more positive flip side to it. Some medical experts believe that the discrepancy can be explained by the fact that, in reality, the life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient depends more on individual circumstances than on other factors such as the type of mesothelioma.
Many factors can affect a pleural mesothelioma patient's life expectancy. One of the most important is cell type. There are three types of mesothelioma cancer cells: sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells, epithelioid mesothelioma cells and biphasic mesothelioma cells. Patients with epithelioid cancer cells typically have the best prognosis while those with biphasic cancer cells have the shortest life expectancy.
Other factors that may play a role in the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma include:
- Overall health
- Tumor size
- Tumor location
- Whether or not the tumor is visible
- Resectability (whether or not the tumor can be removed)
- Blood-related factors
- Nodal status (whether or not the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes)
For additional information on these factors, visit our comprehensive article covering mesothelioma prognosis.
The prognosis and life expectancy of a pleural mesothelioma patient is measured in stages. The most commonly used staging system in the U.S. is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system. This system assesses the original tumor (T), the degree to which it has spread to the lymph nodes (N) and whether the mesothelioma has metastasized (M). There are four stages of pleural mesothelioma, with stage four being the most advanced stage of the disease. Patients at stage four are usually very close to death.
Because the disease progresses so slowly over many years, often with minimal symptoms or indications of a problem, the stage of disease development at the point of diagnosis can vary. Many pleural mesothelioma patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage of the disease and therefore have a short life expectancy.
To learn more about mesothelioma cell types, mesothelioma prognosis, pleural effusion and other topics related to mesothelioma, please visit our pages devoted to those topics.
[Page updated November 2011]