“How long can I live with this disease?” is a common query for those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Indeed, many patients will turn to their doctor with this question as will their concerned friends and family members. As with most diseases, however, there is no one answer as to the life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient. In general, the mesothelioma survival rate is based on a number of different factors. Every case is a little bit different and, although the survival rate for mesothelioma victims has traditionally been grim, more and more patients are living longer with the disease as scientists discover new and more effective ways to detect the disease and to treat it.
Survival rates for mesothelioma patients are dependent upon a variety of factors that may include any or all of the following:
Mesothelioma Latency Period
Mesothelioma is an unusual form of cancer in that it has a very long latency period. Essentially, this means that the disease often “hides” in the body for many years, sometimes for up to four or five decades. Hence, 40-50 years may have passed since initial exposure to asbestos first occurred. This extended latency period also means that the disease is not detected until symptoms arise. Often, by that time, the cancer has spread from the primary area to other parts of the body.
Stage of Disease at the Time of Diagnosis
Individuals whose mesothelioma is discovered in Stage 1 or 2 have a greater chance of surviving the disease for an extended period of time due to the fact that more treatment options will be available to them. Individuals diagnosed with Stage 3 or 4 mesothelioma will have fewer treatment options, and thus, a less favorable prognosis. The worst mesothelioma prognosis is seen in patients with advanced cancer that present or are symptomatic with distant metastases of the primary tumor, i.e., the cancer has spread from the primary area to other parts of the body.
Operability of the Tumor
Due to the aforementioned latency period, surgery to remove the primary mesothelioma tumor is often not an option. However, if the disease is discovered in an early stage, a surgical procedure to remove the tumor may be a possibility, especially when the patient is otherwise healthy.
Age of the Patient
The younger the patient, the better the chance for survival. Studies have shown that age does indeed play a factor in survival rate and young patients certainly fair better.
Co-morbidity with Other Illnesses
Patients, especially older ones, who have many other medical issues are less likely to survive for any length of time with mesothelioma. This is especially true with older patients, who account for large numbers of mesothelioma victims. Heart disease, kidney problems, diabetes, hypertension, and a host of other illnesses or disorders can severely impact treatment options and, hence, shorten a patient’s life span.
Mesothelioma Treatment Plan
The length of time a mesothelioma victim survives may depend on the treatment(s) he receives. Most doctors will be as aggressive as possible, understanding that this is a tough cancer to treat.
Area and Type of the Disease
Mesothelioma comes in various forms. About 75 percent of cases appear in the pleura, 15 to 20 percent in the peritoneum, and just 5 percent in the pericardium. Pleural mesothelioma is easier to treat and patients will generally have a longer mesothelioma survival rate than those whose disease is centered elsewhere. In addition, those with epithelial mesothelioma (most cases are of this type) have a better prognosis than those with other types of mesothelioma.