The life expectancy of a patient diagnosed with mesothelioma varies depending on the stage of the cancer. Stage 1, the earliest stage, has the best prognosis and usually shows very few symptoms. Doctors describe how mesothelioma spreads and grows by using stages. The first two stages have the most treatment options. Stages 3 and 4 have less treatments options available however palliative treatments can greatly improve the patient’s quality of life.

There are three systems that are used most often for staging this cancer and predicting a patient’s mesothelioma life expectancy. They included 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 are fairly consistent.

Mesothelioma often has no symptoms for decades and when it does the symptoms are often missed diagnosed in the early stages. In the rare instances that it is diagnosed in stage 1, the prognosis is good.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Graph on Stages 1 - 4

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy: Stage 1

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.
Life Expectancy Mesothelioma Stage 1
Overall, the 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: 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 Expectancy Mesothelioma Stage 2

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy: Stage 3

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 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 Mesothelioma Stage 3

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy: Stage 4

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 mesothelioma is the last stage of mesothelioma. Life expectancy at this stage is 13 months or less. The cancer has spread throughout the chest cavity and into the abdomen. It may include possible brain involvement as well and the lymph nodes are extensively involved.

Life Expectancy Mesothelioma Stage 4
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Last Modified: Dec 28, 2016 @ 12:22 pm

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