Some patients choose to ignore survival rates because the rates only give an idea of an individual’s prognosis.
Things to keep in mind when considering survival rates are:
They might not be indicative of your diagnosis. Survival rates are averages based on the combined experiences of large numbers of mesothelioma patients in the past. This means patients who refused treatment or had worst case scenarios drag the average survival rate down.
They are just a guideline. Doctors use these statistics as a tool or a guideline to develop a treatment plan. They also use them to explain a patient’s prognosis and how the disease might affect their quality of life in the future. Survival rates don’t take into account an individual’s diagnosis.
They aren’t set in stone. Survival rates can change as both new and standard mesothelioma treatments are developed in clinical trials.
A survival rate refers to the percentage of people who survive their diagnosis after a certain amount of time. Mesothelioma survival rates are expressed as a percentage of patients who survive their diagnosis after a certain interval of time (usually 1, 2 or 5 years).
Five-year survival rates are the most common ways to express rates of survival in cancer patients.
The 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma is between 5 and 10 percent, meaning that 5-10 percent of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma live at least 5 years.
Looking at survival rates can give patients and families a bigger picture. It’s important to remember that these rates are only a piece of the picture. Only a mesothelioma specialist can give you a truly accurate idea of your prognosis. Some patients who exploit all possible treatment options often have 5-year survival rates closer to 30 percent.
Treatments and Survival Rates
Surgery: Overall survival rates typically improve after specialists perform surgery on patients with mesothelioma. Successful curative surgery can remove the bulk of a mesothelioma tumor, slowing down its aggressive spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). According to a large international study, the survival rate for patients who just had curative surgery doubled from an average of 1 year to just under 2 years.
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP): The extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) is a surgery for patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Patients who’ve had an EPP experienced an increased survival rate of up to about 27.5 months.
When paired with other forms of treatment, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, an EPP can improve survival rates even more. A number of studies have shown that a combination of EPP surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy increased survival times to 2 years and 5 months.
Pleurectomy with Decortication (P/D): The median life expectancy for patients who undergo a pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) is about 20 months, just over a year and a half. Like the EPP, a P/D can also be combined with chemotherapy or radiation therapy for improved results. Patients who had a P/D with intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) had better survival rates than those who just had a P/D.
Cytoreduction with Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC)
Cytoreduction with HIPEC is a treatment specialists use for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. The combination of cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy has shown drastic improvements in survival rates for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. This procedure has improved the median survival rate of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma from 1 year to 5 years and beyond.
Survival Rate Factors
Cell Type: The cell type of a patient’s mesothelioma plays an important role in their survival rate. A mesothelioma tumor is made up of one of three cell types: epithelioid, sarcomatoid or biphasic. The overall survival rate of patients with epithelioid mesothelioma is the best of all cell types, while the survival rate of those with sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the worst.
Patients with epithelioid mesothelioma have the best survival rate because epithelioid cells respond better to treatment. This has to do with the shape and behavior of the cells, which tend to group together in tissue. Sarcomatoid patients have the worst survival rates. Unlike epithelioid cells, sarcomatoid cells spread quickly to other parts of the body, making them harder to treat.
Biphasic cells are made up of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Patients with biphasic mesothelioma containing more epithelioid cells respond better to treatment. As a result, they have longer survival rates than those with more sarcomatoid cells.
When treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the 2-year survival rate of patients with epithelioid mesothelioma is 65 percent and the 5-year survival rate is 27 percent. Patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma who completed the same course of treatment experienced a 2-year survival rate of 20 percent.
Location: Survival rates also vary by the location where the mesothelioma tumor first appears. The median survival time for patients with pleural mesothelioma is 12 months. However, patients who had an aggressive curative surgery (like an EPP or P/D) experienced increased survival of up to 24 months.
Specialists have dramatically improved the survival rate of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. They’ve achieved this by using cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy (HIPEC). Survival rates have improved from an average of 6 months to over 5 years with some patients living over 7 years.
There are few studies on the effectiveness of treatment, because pericardial mesothelioma is rare. One study reported that a patient who had a pericardiectomy lived 16 months after surgery. As more cases of pericardial mesothelioma are studied, researchers will collect more data and develop better treatments.
Mesothelioma Stage: The stage of mesothelioma refers to how far the disease has spread (metastasized). In general, the farther the mesothelioma tumor has metastasized, the harder the cancer is to remove with surgery. Because of this, higher survival rates are associated with earlier stages of mesothelioma (stages one and two).
A large international study reported the following median survival rates for patients with pleural mesothelioma:
- Stage One – 21 months
- Stage Two- 19 months
- Stage Three – 16 months
- Stage Four – 12 months
Age: Age also plays a role in survival rates. The 5-year survival rate for patients who were under 45 at the time of their diagnosis is currently about 40 percent. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma over the age of 65 have a considerably lower 5-year survival rate of just under 5 percent.
The overall health of an individual patient, however, can cause the survival rate of a patient at any age to change drastically. Receiving quality treatment from an experienced mesothelioma specialistcan also improve an older patient’s survival rate.
Gender: Women are twice as likely as men to survive a mesothelioma diagnosis for 5 years. Only 6 percent of men versus about 14 percent of women survive past 5 years. The main reason for this significant difference may be that more men traditionally work in occupations connected to asbestos exposure.
Improving Your Survival Rate
Doctors use survival statistics to plan out their patient’s course of treatment. Mesothelioma survival statistics are not meant to project the the exact moment a patient will pass. As newer mesothelioma treatments develop, patients may have the opportunity to receive life-extending treatments.
Each individual patient’s survival rate depends on a number of factors, like the disease’s cell type or stage, that can vary considerably. The best way for a patient to improve their survival rate is to seek treatment from an experienced mesothelioma specialist.