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Home > Mesothelioma additional information > Mesothelioma survival (survival rate)

Mesothelioma survival (survival rate)

Early detection and aggressive treatment can increase mesothelioma survival time. 50% of patients whose cancer was detected early reach 2 years. 20% reach 5 years. Treatment is being improved and often results in a better outlook for newly diagnosed patients. The 5-year survival rate refers to the percent of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Many of these patients live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis, and 5-year rates are used to produce a standard way of discussing prognosis. Five-year relative survival rates exclude from the calculations patients dying of other diseases, and are considered to be a more accurate way to describe the prognosis for patients with a particular type and stage of cancer.

Of course, 5-year survival rates are based on patients diagnosed and initially treated more than 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment often result in a more favorable outlook for recently diagnosed patients. Mesothelioma is a serious disease. By the time the symptoms appear and cancer is diagnosed, the disease is often advanced. The average survival time is about one year. However, if the cancer is found early and treated aggressively, almost half of the patients whose cancer is found early reach the two-year mark, and about 20% survive five years. Like most cancers, the outlook for recovery (prognosis) often depends on how early the disease is diagnosed and how aggressively it is treated. Patients are often told that the expected survival time is only 12 to 18 months. However, specialists at leading cancer centers often have better statistics.

Although there are results from quite a few trials available, they are often quite small studies involving fewer than 20 patients or so. We have picked the trials below to report because they are large. The larger the trial, the more reliable the results are likely to be.

At the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, doctors followed 120 patients, with different types of pleural mesothelioma, from 1980-1995. All these patients were treated with surgery to remove the lung and pleura (pleural pneumonectomy), followed by a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with or without immunotherapy. 54 out of the 120 (45%) patients in this trial were alive 2 years later and 26 out of the 120 (22%) patients were alive 5 years later.

Patients with epithelioid type tumours and no cancer in the lymph nodes had a much better outlook. Nearly 3 people out of every 4 (74%) were alive 2 years later and more than 1 person in every 3 (39%) alive 5 years later. (The full results of this trial are published in the February 2002 edition of the medical magazine Seminars in Oncology, volume 29, issue 1, pages 41-50.)

Another study looked at survival with mesothelioma in an area of North West Italy. This is called a population study. The researchers look at the records of everyone diagnosed with the disease in a given area. This study looked at an area with a total population of 4.5 million. Throughout the world, this is the second largest, of 3 population based studies about mesothelioma survival. All three studies have had similar results. One year after diagnosis, on average, 1 in every 4 people (24%) with pleural mesothelioma and 1 in every 3 people (34%) with peritoneal mesothelioma were still alive. (The full results of this trial are published in the July-August, 2002 edition of the Tumori Journal, volume 88, issue 4, pages 266-9).

Determining the prognosis of a patient with mesothelioma is difficult due to a number of factors. Chief among them is the variability in the time before diagnosis and the rate of disease progression. Although experts may disagree somewhat on the time factor involved in a prognosis, most agree that the factors determining mesothelioma survival rates include the age of the patient, the general health of the patient and the stage of the disease.

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