Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly cancer that’s caused by asbestos exposure. It was on the rise in the U.S. from the 1970s-1990s, but has more recently leveled off or started to decline. It’s believed that improved workplace conditions and regulations governing asbestos exposure have helped to decrease mesothelioma rates in the U.S.; however, new cases are still on the rise in many other countries.
- Mesothelioma has a latency period of 10-50 years
- There are approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the U.S. each year
- Mesothelioma is categorized in stages I to IV, with one being the least serious and four being the most serious
- There are three cell types of mesothelioma: epithelial (50-70 percent of cases), sarcomatoid (10-20 percent of cases), and biphasic (20-35 percent of cases)
- Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than women
- Two-thirds of those diagnosed with mesothelioma are over the age of 65
- 33% of mesothelioma cases involve Navy or shipyard exposures
- Mesothelioma Awareness Day is recognized nationally on September 26th
Mesothelioma Survival Statistics
When discussing life expectancy for mesothelioma patients, the American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that it’s difficult to find accurate survival rates by stage for mesothelioma due to the rarity of the disease. However, the ACS states that survival rates are generally higher for those whose mesothelioma can be operated on versus those whose cancer has spread too far to be removed.
Overall health, disease stage, age, response to treatment, and other factors all impact the lifespan of those with mesothelioma. Talk to your doctor for more insight into your specific case–he or she knows your history best.
The ACS reports that on average, medical literature gives a range of four to 18 months for mesothelioma survival. Some people live far longer. In fact, 5-10 percent of people with mesothelioma live at least five years after being diagnosed, with the survival rate being better for those who are diagnosed at a younger age.
Mesothelioma Treatment Facts
While the average life expectancy of those diagnosed with mesothelioma is typically 18 months or less, early diagnosis and aggressive treatment can substantially improve this prognosis. New mesothelioma treatments are always being researched and tested in clinical trials. The following treatments are the current standard:
Surgery to Treat Mesothelioma
Surgery is the most effective treatment for mesothelioma if the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of the body. Surgery may involve the removal of the tumor only or the entire lung.
Chemotherapy to Treat Mesothelioma
Alimta® (pemetrexed disodium) is the chemotherapy drug that’s been shown to improve the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients when used with other drugs. “Chemo” kills cancer cells and helps to prevent them from multiplying.
Radiation to Treat Mesothelioma
Radiation treatment uses powerful, targeted X-rays to destroy cancer cells and help prevent or slow the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. To improve effectiveness, it’s often used in conjunction with other modalities.
Biologic Therapy to Treat Mesothelioma
Also called immunotherapy, biologic therapy is a newer type of treatment for mesothelioma. Biologic therapy uses special substances–cancer vaccines are an example–that can improve the system’s ability to fight and eliminate cancer cells.