When a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, his or her prognosis is often considered poor. Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive and terminal type of cancer. It is viewed as universally fatal and has no known cure. Each patient’s prognosis, however, varies according to the situation.
If you or someone you love has recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma, get the answers and assistance that you need with help from the attorneys at Bailey & Glasser, LLP. We understand how devastating this type of diagnosis is for patients and their families. We are here to help you learn more about your diagnosis, prognosis and available financial compensation.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects mesothelial tissues. These are the thin membranes that line or surround many of the organs, such as the lungs and heart. The only cause of mesothelioma is asbestos. Asbestos is a group of six minerals that are known carcinogens, meaning they cause cancer.
Inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers can lead to them becoming stuck or lodged in the mesothelial tissues. Over the course of many years – 20-60+ years from the date of exposure, on average – the asbestos fibers in the tissues can cause enough irritation and scarring to change the cells on a genetic level, resulting in cancerous tumors known as mesothelioma.
Is Mesothelioma Always Fatal?
Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that is always fatal. However, it is possible to be diagnosed with benign mesothelioma. This is a noncancerous and nonfatal tumor on the mesothelium or in the lungs. Asbestos-related mesothelioma, however, is typically cancerous or malignant.
Prognosis Definitions: Life Expectancy and Survival Rates
When you discuss your prognosis with your doctor or a mesothelioma medical expert, he or she will turn to data, statistics and averages. This does not necessarily mean that what the doctor says is a guarantee. There is no way to know what your future holds. Understanding the standard medical language used can help you process your prognosis.
Life expectancy means the amount of time that an individual is expected to live based on his or her health condition and medical diagnosis. It is based on statistics collected from previous patients, as well as the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis, how far it has spread (metastasized), and other factors. The survival rate is the percentage of people who have survived a certain type of cancer for a specified amount of time after the diagnosis.
Prognosis Based on Type of Mesothelioma
According to the Abramson Cancer Center, the five-year survival rate for a mesothelioma patient is currently around 10 percent. However, prognoses and survival rates change dramatically from patient to patient. One of the many determining factors in a patient’s prognosis is the type of mesothelioma. There are four types, each affecting a different part of the body and each with a different prognosis.
The following survival rates have been based on a collection of research and publications, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Library of Medicine and the American Cancer Society. Mesothelioma of the pleura, or the tissue that lines the lungs, is the most common. The life expectancy for a patient who is diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma is around 12 to 21 months.
- 1-year survival rate: 73 percent
- 3-year survival rate: 23 percent
- 5-year survival rate: 12 percent
- 10-year survival rate: 4.7 percent
- 1-year survival rate: 92 percent
- 3-year survival rate: 74 percent
- 5-year survival rate: 65 percent
- 10-year survival rate: 39 percent
Mesothelioma of the dual-layered membrane or sac surrounding the heart. This type of mesothelioma has the least favorable prognosis, with a life expectancy of about two to six months.
- 1-year survival rate: 26 percent
- 3-year survival rate: 14 percent
- 5-year survival rate: 9 percent
- 10-year survival rate: not reported
Cancer of the tunica vaginalis, or the membrane surrounding the testes. With treatment, the median life expectancy is 1.7 years. Less information is available about testicular mesothelioma, as there are fewer than 300 documented cases (source: the National Library of Medicine).
- 5-year survival rate: 49 percent
- 10-year survival rate: 33 percent
Note that these are just baseline averages according to the information and data available. With treatments, many patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma far outlive the average life expectancies. Achieving long-term remission is possible for some patients with mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Prognosis – Stage I to Stage IV
The stage of the disease matters when it comes to mesothelioma prognosis. There are four stages according to how soon the disease is detected and the level of metastasis. The prognosis is generally better when mesothelioma is detected early, in stages I or II. By the time mesothelioma progresses to stage IV, limited treatment options are available.
Statistics estimate that a patient who is diagnosed with stage I pleural mesothelioma and undergoes surgery has a life expectancy of around 22 months. At stage I, cancer has not metastasized and is easier to treat. Stage II mesothelioma at the time of diagnosis, when cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, has a median life expectancy of 19 months.
Stage III means that cancer has spread to the chest wall, heart lining and further lymph nodes. Median life expectancy drops to 16 months. At stage IV, cancer cells have spread throughout the body and treatment becomes difficult, resulting in a life expectancy of 12 months. Unfortunately, the long latency period means that many patients with mesothelioma do not notice symptoms until the later stages.
Diagnosed With Mesothelioma? We Can Help
Your prognosis as someone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma is not set in stone. Survival rates and life expectancies are just numbers based on general data. They cannot predict what will happen in your particular case. Many patients have lived for 10 and even 20 years after their diagnoses, according to Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center.
Mesothelioma survival rates have drastically increased in the last 20 years and are only continuing to improve thanks to medical advancements. Today, the average five-year survival rate is 10 percent, while it was just 4 percent in 2000.
Hope for the future is available for mesothelioma patients. At Bailey & Glasser, LLP we understand the emotional toll of a mesothelioma diagnosis. We are here to connect you to vital information and resources during this difficult time.