Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Overview

Doctors have recognized the dangers of asbestos inhalation and the seriousness of the cancer mesothelioma for decades. Even centuries ago, in the times of the Holy Roman Empire, experts noted that those who worked in the asbestos mines died at an early age. This problem increased once the Industrial Revolution hit America and the use of asbestos became widespread, with factory workers, shipbuilders and many other tradesmen eventually succumbing to the effects of daily asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma has traditionally been one of the most difficult cancers to detect and treat. Scientists and researchers of today are trying harder than ever to come up with new ways to expand the life expectancy of a person stricken with mesothelioma. Because the plight of mesothelioma sufferers has been brought further into the public eye in the last decade or so, more dollars are now being spent on research with the hope of finding new drugs and novel treatments for this fatal cancer.

Although there is no definitive cure for mesothelioma, there drugs that can indeed lengthen the life span of a mesothelioma patient. However, a number of factors also help determine the life expectancy, including:

  • Type of Mesothelioma – Patients can be stricken with one of four types of mesothelioma, including pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular. Pleural is the most common form and there are more treatment options available for this type of cancer. The other three types are more aggressive, significantly affecting a patient’s prognosis.
  • Latency Period of Mesothelioma – The long latency period of mesothelioma often results in patients being diagnosed when the cancer has reached Stage 3 or 4, when treatment options are significantly less. Symptoms, in most cases, do not appear until decades after exposure occurs. A late diagnosis shortens the life expectancy of the patient and treatments at this point are not curative but palliative, designed to make the patient more comfortable.
  • Age of the Patient – Though there are certainly exceptions, most mesothelioma patients are older men who have previously worked with asbestos. Studies show that approximately 75 percent of all cases in the United States occur in men age 55 and older. When older individuals are struck by the disease, pre-existing medical conditions can often interfere with treatment and have a significant impact on life expectancy.
  • Smoking – While smoking does not cause mesothelioma, it does aggravate the condition and decrease life span. Simply put, mesothelioma patients should not smoke.

Increasing Life Expectancy

The best way for a mesothelioma patient to increase their life expectancy is by receiving the proper treatment as soon as possible. The oncologist in charge of the case will recommend the best options for treatment, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of all three. Patients may also take advantage of clinical trials that test new drugs and treatments. Scientists continue to look for ways to diagnose the disease before it reaches its later stages. New discoveries, such as the Mesomark® Assay, a simple blood test that identifies a particular biomarker and the presence of mesothelioma before symptoms surface, show great promise in the fight against the cancer.