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Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Life expectancy isn’t just a random number that doctors choose based on one or two factors. Instead, it is a projected measure of the months or years that patients are expected to live following a diagnosis. Physicians use a number of factors to influence their projection, including overall health and stage of the disease.

Overall, a mesothelioma patient can generally expect to live about one year after a diagnosis, however this is just an educated guess. Because of medical advancement and other considerations, many patients live well beyond the average. Even though there is no cure for mesothelioma, survival rates have increased dramatically in the past decade and allowed mesothelioma survivors to live full and rich lives with the disease.

Factors that Determine Life Expectancy

The most influential factor in determining the life expectancy is directly related to the disease process:

Staging

The stage, a calculation of how far the disease has progressed, has the largest impact on life expectancy. Mesothelioma is known to have a long latency period so many of the symptoms don’t emerge until stage III or IV. Even if the symptoms emerge in the early stages, they often mimic that of less-serious diseases, causing multiple misdiagnoses.

  • Stage I -- Localized cancer. Surgery to remove may be an option. Prognosis is high.
  • Stage II -- Cancer has spread. Surgery to remove may be an option. Life expectancy decreased.
  • Stage III -- Cancer has spread to distal points. Surgery not an option. Palliative care considered.
  • Stage IV -- Cancer has spread to distal points. Palliative care an option. Life expectancy severely decreased.

Cell Type

Certain cell types, also called histology, respond better to treatment than others. Epithelial cells are known to respond because they are made up of a single cell type. In contrast, sarcomatoid cells are known to be aggressive and biphasic cells are a combination of the two, making them harder to treat effectively.

Tumor Location

The tumor location is the primary determining factor for identifying the type of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma, which attacks the lining that surrounds the lungs, accounts for up to 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Because of this, there are more research and treatment options for these cases.

Other Life Expectancy Influences

Even though tumor-related factors strongly influence the prognosis, there are other factors beyond the disease process that influence life expectancy:

  • Overall Health -- Also called performance status, this speaks to the patient’s activity level and general fitness. Studies show that the more fit and active you are, the greater your body can withstand aggressive treatments.
  • Age -- The younger a patient is at diagnosis, the better the body can withstand aggressive treatments. Most patients are diagnosed between age 50 and 70, with about 75 percent in their 60s.
  • Gender -- Men are typically diagnosed with mesothelioma more so than women. That’s because men typically work in the occupations that come in close contact with asbestos. However, women who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have longer life expectancies.
  • Blood -- Some blood biomarkers and cells have an influence on the overall outcome of mesothelioma. Researchers are still trying to determine how this plays into a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Malignant Mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://www2a.cdc.gov/drds/WorldReportData/FigureTableDetailsArchive.asp?FigureTableID=891&GroupRefNumber=T07-01
  2. Steele, JP, et al. “Prognostic factors in mesothelioma.” PubMed.gov. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15894403
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