Historically, survival rates for mesothelioma are measured in terms of one-year survival. However, many mesothelioma patients are beating the odds and living far beyond median survival rates thanks to advances in treatment.
Some of these factors, such as the cancer’s stage, cell type, your age and gender, are beyond your control. However, you do have some control in modifying other factors to positively influence your prognosis. Many patients have lived well past their initial life expectancies by electing treatment, improving their overall health and following the advice of knowledgeable specialists.
Additionally, five-year survival for mesothelioma patients has steadily improved since 1999, according to the latest report from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.
Median survival rate refers to the percentage of people who live a certain amount of time after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis. The 5-year survival rate is a standard statistic used for many types of cancer. However, because mesothelioma cancer is so deadly, many people also refer to 1-year survival rates, as well.
Survival rate should not be confused with life expectancy, which refers to the average length of time patients with mesothelioma live. Together, both of these statistics can provide information about an individual’s prognosis.
Survival rate, prognosis, and life expectancy are related terms that can often be confused for one another, since each relates to the same general idea: how long can patients expect to live once diagnosed with mesothelioma or another condition. But when looking at the numbers, confusing these terms can make it difficult for patients to understand their own expected survival or see beyond the data.
Survival rate indicates the portion of people with the same type of cancer, for instance pleural mesothelioma, who survived a certain amount of time after diagnosis. Essentially, survival rate is a statistic that can provide a bigger picture of what a patient may expect in terms of length of overall survival and if their treatment may be successful.
They might not be indicative of your diagnosis. Survival rates are averages based on the combined experiences of large numbers of mesothelioma patients in the past. This means patients who refused treatment or had worst case scenarios drag the average survival rate down.
They are just a guideline. Doctors use these statistics as a tool or a guideline to develop a treatment plan. They also use them to explain a patient’s prognosis and how the disease might affect their quality of life in the future. Survival rates don’t take into account an individual’s diagnosis.
They aren’t set in stone. Survival rates can change as both new and standard mesothelioma treatments are developed in clinical trials.
Doctors record survival rates at yearly intervals to provide a guideline for life expectancy. However, many patients live longer or shorter than these intervals. Mesothelioma survival rates based on location of the tumor may be misinterpreted since this disease can be easily mistaken for other types of cancer. If a patient is correctly diagnosed before the cancer reaches later stages, survival rates may not apply.
Along with the stage of the cancer, the outlook for people with MPM can also be affected by other factors. For example, the type of mesothelioma, based on how the cancer cells are arranged when seen in the lab, is important. The epithelioid type tends to have a better outlook than the other types, such as sarcomatoid or mixed (biphasic) MPM. Other factors can be important as well.
Remember, these survival rates are only estimates – they can’t predict what will happen to any individual person. We understand that these statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk to your doctor to better understand your specific situation.
According to the second mesothelioma report by the Royal College of Physicians, there are variations regarding the interventions and treatments that are offered to mesothelioma patients.
There was a general increase in the use of palliative chemotherapy and anti-cancer treatments between 2014 and 2016. The report indicates an increase in the use of these treatments, which went from 34% to 36.5% over the last two years. For mesothelioma patients with good health, the use of chemotherapy treatment has increased from 41% in 2014 to 53.5% in 2016.
Survival by stage
There are no UK wide statistics available for mesothelioma survival by stage. It is difficult to collect data because mesothelioma is rare. Doctors don’t always know the stage because accurate staging needs an operation. And most people don’t have surgery.
The statistics below are from a study in South East England. The researchers looked at people diagnosed with mesothelioma between 1998 and 2002. Statistics are only available for men. This is because there were not enough women to calculate survival by stage for women. Most of the people in this study had mesothelioma in the chest (pleural mesothelioma).
Men were classified as having either localised disease (stage 1) or non localised disease (stage 2, 3 or 4).
Why Do Women Live Longer?
Gender is another factor that affects survival rates. The 5-year relative survival rate for women is more than double the rate for men. Recent data shows men have a 6.5 percent 5-year survival rate and women have a 15.4 percent rate. Routine health visits often lead to an earlier diagnosis and help account for a higher female survival rate. One study concluded that women visited the doctor nearly 20 percent more than men.
This data shows a significant difference in survival rates between men and women, but could be skewed based on occupational exposure. Men traditionally work jobs where factors related to mesothelioma, such as prolonged exposure to asbestos, are much higher than those seen by women.