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Survival Rates for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma survival rates refer to the amount of time patients live after a diagnosis. In general, 40 percent of mesothelioma patients survive the first year after a diagnosis, but individual factors – including cancer stage, mesothelioma type and the patient’s age – can greatly impact any patient’s survival rate.

Mesothelioma patients have more treatment options than ever before, increasing the opportunity to live far beyond the average survival rates. Long-term mesothelioma survivors say there are several factors that have helped: medical care from a mesothelioma specialist, use of clinical trials, alternative medicines and dietary changes.

The latest data from the National Cancer Institute showed the five-year survival rate for mesothelioma has improved since 1999. For mesothelioma patients, as each year passes following a diagnosis the survival rate increases.

Factors Impacting Survival Rates

Mesothelioma survival rates are greatly impacted by key factors that are variable in every patient. Overall, physicians look at the following factors to derive a scientific summary for mesothelioma survival rates:

  • Type/Location
  • Disease Stage
  • Patients Age, Gender, and Race
  • Treatment Options

Disease Type and Location

Different types of mesothelioma describe the location of the disease: pleural (lung), peritoneal (abdominal), pericardial (heart) and testicular (testes).

Of those, pleural and peritoneal mesotheliomas provide the best survival chances due to the advances in treatment options in the past decade. The extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) for pleural mesothelioma and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) for peritoneal mesothelioma have positively impacted survivability. The type of treatments available largely depends on the spread of the disease.

For the two leading forms of the disease (pleural and pericardial), the survival rates for the second year after a diagnosis decreases to 11 percent and 35 percent respectively.

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Disease Stage

Cancer staging, an indicator of the severity of the spread of the disease, also greatly impacts mesothelioma survivability. Patients who are diagnosed at an early stage of the disease have better chances of survival.

Often, mesothelioma develops unnoticed in the body for decades. When early symptoms emerge they are typically nonspecific, often leading to a misdiagnosis of a less-serious illness, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. These misdiagnoses can cause a delay in life-saving treatments.

According to the American Cancer Society, the median mesothelioma survival times by stage are as follows:

  • Stage I – 21 months
  • Stage II – 19 months
  • Stage III – 16 months
  • Stage IV – 12 months

In general, patients who are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease (stages I, II and sometimes III) are likely to live longer because they have more surgical options for treatment. Mesothelioma surgery can remove much of the diseased tissue, making other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, more effective.

Patients Gender, Age, and Race

Overall, Caucasian women under age 65 have the best chances of long-term mesothelioma survival. Caucasian women are less likely than men to be diagnosed with the disease. At the same time, younger patients have a better chance of survival.

Studies show the five-year survival rate for women diagnose with mesothelioma exceeds the rate of men (15.4 percent for women vs. 6.5 percent for men).

Researchers think more men are diagnosed with mesothelioma because it is largely an occupational disease linked to male-dominated fields such as construction and contractor work. Also, women tend to visit the doctor more than men, so women are often diagnosed and treated in the earlier stages.

At the same time, patients who are diagnosed under age 65 have improved survival rates because they are generally healthier and have greater physical and emotional resources to battle the disease.

Studies show mesothelioma patients diagnosed before age 65 live about three months longer than those diagnosed at age 65 and older. At the same time, however, overall health plays a major role in response to disease treatments.

Patients who are older than 65 and generally healthy may fare better than those under age 65 with multiple preexisting conditions. For both sets of patients, one of the best predictors of a positive outcome is the services of a mesothelioma specialists who is skilled in all of the newest research and technology to eliminate the disease.

Studies also show about 95 percent of mesothelioma patients are Caucasian. A lesser percentage is Hispanic and even fewer are black or Asian.

Treatment Options

Mesothelioma treatment options are directly related to the stage (progression) of the disease. Patients diagnosed in the earlier stages of the disease are more likely eligible for advanced treatment options, thus making the disease more survivable.

Of the treatment options, surgery has been shown to improve survival rates. Surgical resection of tumors decreases metastasis and allows other treatments (such as chemotherapy and radiation) to work. Most patients who are eligible for surgical treatments are diagnosed in the early disease stages and are otherwise healthy.

  • Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (Pleural Mesothelioma) – For the Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP) procedure, mesothelioma specialists remove the damaged lung, part of the chest lining(called the pleura), the heart lining (the pericardium), the diaphragm and some nearby lymph nodes. Researchers have found the procedure can increase life expectancy by about 19 months following the procedure.
  • Pleurectomy/Decortication (Pleural Mesothelioma) – The Pleurectomy/Decortication (P/D) is considered a lung-saving surgical option because surgeons only remove the diseased lining around the lung and other nearby tumors. Some specialists consider the P/D a more effective procedure than the EPP because a whole lung is not removed. Similar to the EPP, researchers have found the P/D can improve life expectancy by about 19 months.
  • Cytoreduction (Peritoneal Mesothelioma) – Also called debulking, cytoreduction is aimed at paring down or completely removing mesothelioma tumors. This procedure is either used alone or in conjunction with Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy.
  • Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (Peritoneal Mesothelioma) – For the Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) procedure, surgeons remove visible tumors and then place high doses of heated chemotherapy in the abdominal cavity. The chemotherapy solution is aimed at killing microscopic cancer cells. This is a treatment option for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma that has not spread.

Improving Survival Rates

Survival rates are aimed at giving patients a clearer understanding of their disease and the available treatment options. However, patients should remember that survival rates are only estimations based on how other patients respond to treatment. Each patient’s circumstances differ based on a variety of factors that can impact, and improve, survival rates.

The single variable that has been shown to impact survival rates across the board is receiving care from a mesothelioma specialist. Call us today to be put into contact with the leading specialists.

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