Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients ranges nine months to four years, depending on factors that include stage, location and type of asbestos cancer. In the past decade, the life expectancy for mesothelioma patients has increased due to better research, a commitment to finding a cure and patient access to funding to pay for advanced treatments.
Patients who are diagnosed at an early stage of mesothelioma cancer have a longer life expectancy. Patients who can undergo surgery to remove cancerous tissue live longer than those who have cancer that has metastasized. Other factors that influence the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients include general health, gender and eligibility to undergo aggressive treatments.
Patients who meet the criteria for aggressive treatments are encouraged to begin treatments immediately. The funding available through asbestos trusts provides financial security to quickly start aggressive treatments, alternative therapies and clinical trials The funding can also be used for traveling and living expenses.
How to Survive Mesothelioma
The following tips can help patients improve their survival rate:
- Clinical Trials – Probably the best way to gain access to the newest and most innovative treatments is by enrolling in clinical trials. Some of the latest trials are looking at new medications that will help prevent the metastasis of cancer cells with a drug called defactinib and a way to kill tumors with a new chemotherapy drug called panobinostat.
- Alternative Therapies – With your doctor’s permission, some alternative therapies can work hand-in-hand with conventional treatments. Some celebrated survivors, such as Paul Kraus, have lived for decades following an asbestos-cancer diagnosis by using alternative therapies. Kraus was diagnosed in 1997 and utilized alternative therapies as treatment. Consult your doctor for more information.
- Diet and Nutrition – While diet and nutrition alone will not cure mesothelioma, it gives patients a head start on a stronger body. Adequate nutrition allows patients the ability to fight the disease and withstand aggressive treatments.
Doctors are continually discovering new treatments that can make a difference in a patient’s life expectancy. In the case of asbestos cancer, there are treatments that show great promise:
- Multimodal – Most asbestos cancer patients who are eligible for aggressive treatments utilize multimodal treatment, which is a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
- Experimental – Some of the newest experimental treatments that have shown promise include the use of statin drugs, which are used to reduce cholesterol levels, to kill cancerous cells. Researchers are also looking into ways to use light to kill cancerous cells in a procedure called photodynamic therapy.
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Life Expectancy Factors
The factors that determine life expectancy include:
- Disease Stage – Like other forms of cancer, asbestos cancer is staged from I to IV. Stage I cancer is localized and is often treatable, Stage II cancer has spread but not significantly, Stage III cancer has spread from its point of origin on one side of the body, and Stage IV cancer has spread throughout the body. Swift and aggressive treatment, such as surgery, is the key to eliminating asbestos cancer.
- Tumor Location – Tumors located in an easily accessible area of the body can be more easily resected. For example, tumors near the heart are generally more difficult and dangerous to remove than those located in the abdominal area. Research shows that patients who are diagnosed with peritoneal asbestos cancer have a longer life expectancy than those who have been diagnosed with pleural or pericardial mesothelioma.
- Cell Type – In the final stages of a diagnosis, doctors will determine the cells that are involved in the cancer. This is a crucial piece of information because it determines how the treatment will proceed. Some types of cells (epithelial) are known to be less aggressive and easier to treat than others (biphasic or sarcomatoid).
- Cancer Type – Of the three most common types of mesothelioma (pleural, pericardial and peritoneal), pleural mesothelioma is the most common. It makes up about 75 percent of all asbestos-cancer diagnoses. That means, researchers have focused more time, effort and money to finding an effective treatment for pleural mesothelioma.
- Latency – Asbestos cancer is known to be a disease that takes 20 to 50 years to develop. That means most people are diagnosed when they are about 60 or 70 years old. Older patients have a greater difficulty managing aggressive medical treatments.
- American Cancer Society. Survival statistics for mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignantmesothelioma/detailedguide/malignant-mesothelioma-survival-statistics
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Malignant Mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2652430/