Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
There are many factors to consider when estimating the life span of a patient diagnosed with mesothelioma. One of the most important deciding factors is the stage of which the cancer was diagnosed. Stage 1, the earliest stage, tends to yield the best possible prognosis and life expectancy because it offers the most available treatment options. With that said, there are other factors to consider as well, these include: the amount of asbestos fibers inside the patient’s body, the age, and the overall health of the patient is also very important. The length of life expectancy diminishes considerably if the patient is a smoker.
There are three systems that are used to figure out the stage of mesothelioma that the patient is in so that the doctors can better predict the patient’s remaining life span. These systems are the Butchart System, Brigham System, and TNM staging System. Each system indicates something different about the disease in each of its stages, but the systems in general, are fairly consistent in their results.
Mesothelioma often has no symptoms for decades and when it does, the symptoms are often misdiagnosed because they are fairly mild and are very similar to common colds.
Life Span Expectancy of Stage 1 Mesothelioma
Stage 1 mesothelioma is the first and earliest stage of mesothelioma. It only affects the lining of one lung (the pleura) or a small part of the abdomen. It is the least advanced stage as there is no involvement of the lymph nodes. There are many treatment options available to patients with stage 1 mesothelioma. It can be divided into two categories:
Stage 1a – Tumors have formed on the outer layer of the pleura.
Stage 1b – Tumors are discovered on the inner layer of the pleura.
In stage 1 the guidelines for the different Systems are as follows:
- Butchart System – Stage 1 mesothelioma is limited to one section of the pleural membrane on either the right or left side of the lung. It may also be found on one side of the diaphragm.
- TNM System – Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma the tumor is on only once side of the pleura but may have possibly spread to either the lung, diaphragm, or pericardium on the same side. Peritoneal mesothelioma shows the cancer on one side of the abdomen and has not spread to other parts of the body or the lymph nodes.
- Brigham System – Stage 1, the tumor is usually removed. This is unlikely since the latency period of mesothelioma is so long.
Overall, the mesothelioma life expectancy in stage 1 is significantly better than the advanced stages of mesothelioma. However, it is still highly variable because the options for treatment vary as does the overall health of the patient. Survival rates are rated between 18-34 months with trimodal therapy while others may have survival rates of many years.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy For Stage 2
At stage 2 the cancer has begun to spread to surrounding areas and the symptoms have become worse. The patient may become short of breath, have a chronic cough and/or have chest pain. Curative treatment is still possible at this stage. The treatment plan is multimodal and includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The life expectancy with diagnosis and treatment at stage 2 is 2 years.
In stage 2 the guidelines for the different systems are as follows:
- Butchart System – Stage 2 shows that the cancer in the pleural membrane of one lung has spread to the other. It could have possibly spread to esophagus or the pericardium which is the lining of the heart. Some minimal lymph node involvement is possible.
- TNM System – In stage 2 the mesothelioma has spread for it’s primary area to the lymph nodes on the same side of the body. It may also have spread to the lung or diaphragm on the same side. There may be some involvement of the lining of the heart.
- Brigham System – In stage 2 cancer patients are still candidates for surgery. There may be a grouping of lymph nodes involved at this stage.
Stage 2 diagnosis is still considered to be early diagnosis. The overall survival rate for stage 2 mesothelioma is approximately 22 months.
Life Span Expectancy of Stage 3 Mesothelioma
There are more patients diagnosed with stage 3 mesothelioma than any of the other stages. Once a patient is diagnosed with stage 3, there has been a significant amount of spreading and the lymph nodes are usually involved. Symptoms are severe and include fatigue, weight loss, chest pain, and breathing difficulties.
In stage 3 the guidelines for the different systems are as follows:
- Butchart System – In stage 3 the cancer has spread from the original are in the pleura to other parts of the body including the lungs, and abdominal cavity.
- TNM System – In stage 3 cancer has spread to the other parts of the chest cavity from the lining of the lungs. This includes the diaphragm, the esophagus, and other organs which includes the heart. The lymph nodes are involved at this stage as well.
- Brigham System – In stage 3 surgery to remove the tumor is no longer an option because the cancer is now affecting the other organs in the chest cavity as well as groups of the lymph nodes.
Studies examining outcomes with patients who received trimodal treatment suggest that the average mesothelioma life expectancy is 19 months if the surgery failed to remove all visible tumors. It is not possible to predict the life expectancy in stage 3 as patients respond differently to their treatment.
Life Expectancy of Stage 4 Mesothelioma
A diagnosis of stage 4 mesothelioma indicates the disease has spread and lymph node involvement is likely. Symptoms at this stage include significant pain and discomfort, anemia, weight loss, fatigue and fluid buildup. At this stage of the cancer treatment is focused on palliative care (symptom relief).
In stage 4 the guidelines for the different systems are as follows:
- Butchart System – Stage 4 indicates the cancer has reached distant organs through the bloodstream.
- TNM System – Stage 4 indicates the tumor has metastasized and has spread to the other side of the body. Usually the lymph nodes in the neck are affected as are distant lymph nodes.
- Brigham System – Stage 4 indicates there is no possibility of surgery. The spread of the disease has increased the likelihood for the recurrence of the tumors if they were removed.
Stage 4 is the last and also considered the most severe stage of mesothelioma. A patient’s expected life span at this stage is 13 months or less because the lymph nodes are extensively involved, the cancer is malignant, the cancer cells have spread throughout the chest cavity and has most likely metastasized into the abdomen, heart, or other organs.
While mesothelioma life expectancy may depend on a lot of factors intrinsic to the patient, access to excellent medical care can go a long way in aiding to the improvement of a patient’s life span but also to their quality of life. While there is plenty of information online concerning survival rates, prognosis, and life expectancy, this information is all based on mesothelioma diagnoses from the past. Just as every person in this world is different from the other, so are the cases of mesothelioma. In order to improve your or a loved one’s life expectancy, you must know:
- The type of mesothelioma
- The stage at which it is in
- Treatment options available in order to begin treatment right away
This all starts and begins with contacting a mesothelioma specialist as they are the most qualified to assess and treat any form of this asbestos-related cancer.
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- NIOSH. (March 2009). Malignant Mesothelioma: Mortality; Numbers of deaths. Retrieved from http://www2a.cdc.gov/drds/WorldReportData/FigureTableDetailsArchive.asp?FigureTableID=891&GroupRefNumber=T07-01
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- 2Moore AJ, Parker RJ, Wiggins J. “Malignant mesothelioma.” Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases. 2008;3:34. doi: 10.1186/1750-1172-3-34
- 3Rusch, V.W., et al. “Initial Analysis of the International Association For the Study of Lung Cancer Mesothelioma Database.” Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2012;7(11):1631-1639. doi:10.1097/JTO.0b013e31826915f1
- 4“Survival statistics for mesothelioma.” American Cancer Society. Feb. 17, 2016.
- Alexander, H.R., and Burke, A.P. “Diagnosis and management of patients with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma.” Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology. 2016;7(1):79-86.
- doi:10.1097/JTO.0b013e31826915f1“Survival statistics for mesothelioma.” American Cancer Society. Feb. 17, 2016.
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