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Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

When oncologists speak about the life expectancy of a cancerpatient, they are referring to the projected amount of time any given patient will live with the current growth of the disease. The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients has improved in the past decades, offering some encouragement to current patients.

Decades ago, most asbestos-cancer patients were not offered any hope. Today, advances in medical technology have allowed a growing number of these patients to live longer than ever before. At the same time, patients today are taking a more active role in their treatment and recovery.

On average, asbestos-cancer patients have a life expectancy from nine to 24 months, depending on a number of factors. About 20 percent live more than two years following a diagnosis.

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Factors Involved with Determining Life Expectancy

There are several features that come into play when determining life expectancy:

  • Cancer Type - The three common types of mesothelioma are Pleural (lung area), Peritoneal (stomach area), and Pericardial (heart area). Of those, pleural accounts for the largest amount of mesothelioma diagnoses. Because it is more common, more research and research funding has gone into the disease, and it is generally thought to have a more favorable prognosis.
  • Stage of Cancer - Asbestos cancer is staged, or graded, according to severity, from stage I as the least severe to stage IV as the most. Asbestos cancer that is diagnosed in stages I and II is known to have a better overall life expectancy. Doctors often consider surgical methods to remove the tumors. For those diagnosed in stages III or IV, the treatment methods are mostly palliative.
  • Histology - Also known as cell type, this looks at the cells that are involved in the cancer. Certain types of cells, such as epithelial cells, are known to respond well to treatment. Other cells, including sarcomatoid and biphasic, resist many common cancer treatments.
  • Patient’s Age - Patients who are younger, stronger and healthier often have better life expectancy because they withstand more grueling treatment and have stronger immune systems to fight. Those who are already facing other diseases or are older have a more difficult time. One study showed that patients over age 75 had a median life expectancy of about four months, while patients between ages 65 and 74 had a median life expectancy of seven months. Younger patients have about a year life expectancy.
  • Patient’s Gender - Researchers are still trying to determine why women who develop mesothelioma have a longer life expectancy than their male counterparts. However, the disease is known to strike more men than women overall.
  • Patient’s Blood - Researchers have recently discovered that certain blood cells and biomarkers have a great impact on an asbestos-cancer patient’s life expectancy. Studies are still ongoing in this field.
  • Overall Health at Time of Diagnosis - Patients who do not have other diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and do not smoke have a better chance at fighting mesothelioma. Healthier patients are usually eligible for more aggressive treatments.

Ways to Improve Your Prognosis

There are several ways that patients can take control of their health and treatment. This includes early detection, clinical trials and complementary and alternative medicines.

  • Early diagnosis - The single best way to improve a life expectancy is to detect and treat the disease in the earliest stages. There are several tests that are known to help.
  • Clinical Trials - Many procedures and medications that are not yet on the market can be available through clinical trials. In some cases, they are more effective than those currently available.
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicines - (CAMs) These include acupuncture, massage, herbal treatments and yoga. These treatments are known as stress relievers, which is important to the patient’s overall health.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Life Expectancy. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lifexpec.htm

Medline Plus. Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/complementaryandalternativemedicine.html