Last Updated on 23rd July 2020 by Kirsty Smithson
Doctors describe a mesothelioma prognosis as being an overall outlook for a patient who has been diagnosed with the disease.
The purpose of a prognosis for the patient is that it helps to determine the different treatment options that are available and which they can pursue, including any prospects of recovery that there may be.
Doctors will indicate to the patient how they expect the disease to progress as part of the prognosis using terms such as “good,” “favorable,” “bad” or “poor”.
Anyone that is diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer can expect to live anywhere between 14 to 22 months, with most patients only living for 1 year after diagnosis.
But how long you live really depends on which stage you are diagnosed at and also how well your body responds to mesothelioma treatments.
There are 4 mesothelioma stages, with stages 1 and 2 being the early stages and 3 and 4 being the later stages.
People diagnosed in the early stages are often eligible to have surgery, and this offers patients the best possible chance of survival.
For example, around 20 percent of pleural mesothelioma patients are diagnosed early enough to qualify for surgery.
Statistics show that those patients at stage 1 who go on to have surgery have an average life expectancy of 22.2 months.
Unfortunately though, because of the long latency period of the mesothelioma cancer, this means that the majority of patients are diagnosed too late to qualify for surgery at stages 3 or 4.
However, every mesothelioma case is different and life expectancy is improving for some due to advances in treatment.
Mesothelioma will typically shorten a person’s life expectancy by several years or decades.
Just how much it will shorten a person’s life will depend on their age at the time of diagnosis and how long they live with mesothelioma cancer.
The survival rate equates to the number of people who have lived with and survived a disease for a certain period of time, typically 5 years.
In the case of mesothelioma, only 9% of people survived the disease between 2007 and 2013, according to The National Cancer Institute
A patient’s mesothelioma prognosis will be primarily based on the cancer’s average survival rates.
There are actually four different types of mesothelioma which affect your body in different ways.
For this reason, it’s important that you find out the exact type of mesothelioma you have at the time of diagnosis, as this will determine whether your prognosis will be good or bad.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the cancer and also the most deadly, mainly because the cancer forms in the lining of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
Patients who receive a prognosis for this type of mesothelioma can expect to live for approximately one year following diagnosis.
Only about 9 percent of pleural mesothelioma patients survive for more than five years.
The prognosis for patients diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma is much better.
The long term survival rates have improved due to new treatments for abdominal cancer, such as heated chemotherapy.
So much so that around 50 percent of patients who have the heated chemotherapy surgery go on to live longer than five years.
Pericardial mesothelioma prognosis is generally very poor and only around 50% of patients live beyond 6 months.
There have been some rare cases where patients have lived for 5 years or more.
These patients will have usually had treatment which includes surgery and chemotherapy.
The rarest type and also the type with the best prognosis out of all the 4 types of mesothelioma.
The average survival rate is around two years and some patients have been reported to live more than a decade.
There are 4 different stages of mesothelioma that doctors refer to.
Patients in the early stages of 1 or 2 will have a far better prognosis than those patients in the advanced stages of 3 or 4.
The most common type, pleural mesothelioma, has the most prognosis data available stage by stage.
There is no formally adopted staging system for peritoneal mesothelioma however.
As this is the earliest stage of mesothelioma, it also means the best prognosis for patients as the cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms this early on.
However, the survival rates differ for stage 1A and stage 1B pleural mesotheliomas as follows:-
Similarly to stage 1, stage 2 mesothelioma patients have a far better prognosis than late stage patients as there are very few symptoms this early on.
However, some patients may start to feel shortness of breath while exercising.
Medical professionals will usually recommend the more aggressive treatment plans at this stage.
As the mesothelioma cancer starts to cause symptoms at this stage, it means the prognosis is unfortunately more bleak.
Patients will usually start to experience chest pain, will have difficulty in breathing and suffer from weight loss.
Aggressive treatment plans will be available for some patients at stage 3.
As in stage 1, the survival rates will vary as follows:-
Stage 4 is the latest stage of mesothelioma, and as such, the prognosis isn’t very good for patients.
Symptoms tend to be worse with patients developing a fever, experiencing night sweats and having difficulty swallowing.
In order to extend their life, patients are recommended to undergo palliative treatments to help control any symptoms.
There are a few other factors though that determine prognosis, besides the type of mesothelioma and the stage it’s at, which are detailed below.
The younger you are when you develop mesothelioma, the better the prognosis.
This is due to the fact that older people respond less positively to cancer treatment due to a weakened immune system.
When you’re young, your immune system is much stronger, so your body responds much better to treatment.
As such, records show that more than 50% of patients under the age of 50 live at least one year with mesothelioma.
In contrast, less than a third of patients diagnosed over the age of 75 ever live that long.
Also affecting your mesothelioma prognosis will be the type of cells you have in your tumour.
Patients with epithelioid cell types in their mesothelioma tumour(s) tend to live on average 200 days longer than those with sarcomatoid or biphasic (combination) types, which is more difficult to treat.
Statistics show that women live longer than men with mesothelioma.
Although medical research doesn’t fully explain the reason for this, it’s suspected that hormones may be a factor, and that more women are diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma.
Medical research has demonstrated that black people have a better mesothelioma survival rate than white people.
The five year survival rate in 2013 was 10% for black people and only 8.7% for white people, with black women living the longest.
Although mesothelioma is a terminal cancer, there are things you can do to improve your quality of life and overall health.
Treatment to control mesothelioma cancer will improve your prognosis.
Also, a good, nutritious and balanced diet can ease symptoms and side effects of the cancer treatment.
Surgery and chemotherapy are the 2 main treatment options that are available to mesothelioma patients to help improve their prognosis.
Sadly, as most patients are diagnosed too late, surgery options are not viable, and chemotherapy treatment is given instead.
Chemotherapy treatment works very well with around half of mesothelioma patients experiencing tumor shrinkage or no new tumor growth for a period of time.
Surgery is only offered to people in stages 1 or 2, and this provides them with the best chance of survival.
This may involve removal of the entire lung, just part of the lung or the lining of the lung (pleura).
Also available at any stage is palliative care which aims to improve quality of life and control pain and symptoms.
Another treatment available for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma is hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), which involves adding chemotherapy drugs to a heated saline solution and then pumping it directly into the patient’s stomach.
This treatment has proven to be very successful with half of patients surviving for more than five years.
Cancer remission involves a partial or complete reduction in the tumour size.
In order to be classed as partial remisssion, a tumour has to have decreased in size by at least 50%.
To be classed as complete remission, the cancer has to disappear completely.
Sadly, complete remission is very rare when it comes to mesothelioma cancer, but a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy can help with partial remission.
Patients who have gone through treatment and surgery can go on to live for years in partial remission.
Whether a patient has achieved partial or complete remission, mesothelioma cancer can recur at a later stage, meaning there is no cure as of yet for this horrible disease.
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Published Jun 06, 2019