Mesothelioma Treatments Prognosis

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos particles, most often in the workplace. Asbestos particles in the body lead to cancerous growths in the mesothelium, or the thin layer of tissue covering the internal organs. The organs most often affected are the lungs and abdominal organs. Mesothelioma prognosis, or the outlook for an individual diagnosed with mesothelioma, is affected by the interaction of a number of different physical and environmental factors.

Mesothelioma Progression and Type

The stage of your mesothelioma cancer is a major factor in prognosis. Mesothelioma is staged according to the TNM staging system, which takes into account several factors:

  • Original tumor site (T)
  • Spread to lymph nodes (N)
  • Spread to distant areas of the body (M).

Staging Pleural Mesothelioma - The TNM System

See the article “Stages of Mesothelioma” for more information on the staging system. A related factor is the time of diagnosis. Treatments for mesothelioma will depend on the disease’s stage. If your mesothelioma is diagnosed late, it has likely spread further throughout the body, and will be more difficult to treat.

Types of Mesothelioma Cells

Mesothelioma cell type can also affect prognosis for mesothelioma. Three types of mesotheliomal cells can occur in mesothelioma:

  • Epithelial cells are most common, and are most responsive to treatment.
  • Mixed/Biphasic cells are a combination of epithelial and sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells.
  • Sarcomatoid cells are rare and resistant to treatment, leading to a poorer prognosis.

The cell type will affect treatments for mesothelioma, as well as their effectiveness. This will have an effect on your mesothelioma prognosis if you’ve been diagnosed.

Other Factors of Prognosis of Mesothelioma

Factors beyond the disease itself also affect the prognosis for mesothelioma patients. Your age and overall health affect how your body will respond to the cancer, as well as whether it is strong enough to withstand aggressive or invasive treatments for mesothelioma. Other risk factors, such as a history of smoking, may also be negative prognostic indicators. Your family support system and ability to care for yourself will also affect your prognosis.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma life expectancy is difficult to determine. Life expectancy in cancer is generally a function of the time of diagnosis; the later the diagnosis, the shorter the post-diagnosis survival. Survival rate for early-diagnosed mesothelioma could be longer, but this is not known, as early diagnosis is rare.

In mesothelioma, diagnosis is almost always late, due to a number of factors:

  • Lack of reliable staging (only pleural mesothelioma is staged)
  • Long latency between asbestos exposure and manifestation of symptoms of mesothelioma
  • Non-specific symptoms that can be mistaken for other diseases
  • Rarity of the disease.

Though exact survival rates are not known, prognosis for mesothelioma is usually poor. In 2009, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation conducted a study on pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of this disease. They found that the average survival period after diagnosis ranges from four to 18 months. However, some patients do survive longer. In order to improve prognosis and mesothelioma life expectancy, researchers and doctors are working to find methods of early diagnosis for this cancer.


Albelda, S.M., et al. (2009). Localized treatment approaches for malignant pleural mesothelioma and fibrous tumors of the pleura. Retrieved January 4, 2010, from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation Web site: nlnet/content2.aspx?c=kkLUJ7MPKtH