Life after a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

How long do I have to live? It’s a question that often follows the devastating news of a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive asbestos-related cancer that forms in the protective lining of the chest, the abdomen, the heart, or the testicles. It usually takes 20 to 50 years after a person’s first exposure to asbestos for mesothelioma to develop, but once diagnosed, the disease can kill in a matter of months. (2)

Unfortunately, most patients are diagnosed only after the cancer has progressed because the symptoms of mesothelioma mirror other, more common illnesses, making the cancer hard to detect. Depending on a patient’s specific circumstances, some surgical options may be possible. (3) (4)

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Mesothelioma Survival Rate

Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, the survival rate is rising as researchers learn more about the deadly disease. More mesothelioma patients than ever before are living for at least one year after diagnosis, and some patients have even survived for five and 10 years.(5) Still, the current five-year survival rate for mesothelioma is only 10 percent.(1)

Some factors linked to longer survival times include:

  • Good overall health.
  • Younger age.
  • Female gender.
  • Epithelioid subtype.
  • Lack of chest pain.
  • No significant weight loss.
  • Normal levels of a substance in the blood called LDH.
  • Normal red blood cell counts, white blood cell counts, and blood platelet counts. (6)

Mesothelioma Stages & Life Expectancy

The stage of the mesothelioma cancer, or how far it has progressed at the time of diagnosis, affects life expectancy. The earlier a doctor catches the cancer, the better the prognosis and expected survival rate.(1)

Staging can affect the treatment options available to a patient. Stage I means the cancer is localized, while stage IV, the most advanced stage of mesothelioma, means the cancer has spread and surgery is no longer a viable option.(7) People with mesotheliomas that can be operated on are likely to live longer than those with cancer that has spread too far to be surgically removed.(8) Unfortunately, most patients are not diagnosed until stages III or IV because symptoms can remain unnoticeable for some time.

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database provides cancer survival statistics. The American Cancer Society relies on this database of info for this survival information: (9)

SEER Stage5-Year Relative Survival Survival

Localized (cancer only in pleura)


Regional (cancer has spread nearby)


Distant (cancer has spread far)


All stages combined


Mesothelioma Location & Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma is classified by where it starts in the body, and the location of the tumors may affect life expectancy. Patients with pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the lining of the lungs, make up 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases and have the best rate of survival. Tumors that form in the lining of the abdomen are called peritoneal mesotheliomas and are the second most common type of the disease. The overall prognosis of peritoneal mesothelioma is worse than pleural mesothelioma with typical survival up to one year. (1) (10)

Mesothelioma Cell Type & Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma is typically divided into three cell-type categories, depending on the tissue involved. These cell types include epithelial, sarcomatoid, and biphasic.

  • Epithelial mesothelioma is the most common type, accounting for 50-70 percent of all cases. It has the best survival rate.
  • Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the least common but most aggressive of the cell types. It is associated with a particularly poor prognosis.
  • Biphasic mesothelioma is known as mixed type because it’s a combination of epitheliod and sarcomatoid cell types. (15)

A literature review, published in 2022, noted that epitheliod type mesothelioma “offers the best prognosis, followed by non-epithelioid and sarcomatoid.” (13) (1) In a 2001 study of 1,605 cases, German researchers noted a survival time of 16.9 months for epithelioid malignant mesotheliomas, compared with 13.1 months for biphasic tumors, and 5.5 months for the sarcomatoid tumors. (11)

Other Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The stage of the cancer, tumor location, and cell type are known as tumor-related factors. Non-tumor factors also exist and affect life expectancy. Non-tumor factors include age, gender, blood characteristic, and general health.

Performance status (overall health)

The more active and fit you are, the more likely your body will be able to handle and bounce back from aggressive cancer treatments. Doctors measure how well you are doing and call this your performance status, or PS.(12)

Age & Gender

Mesothelioma is much more common in men and older people. Women with mesothelioma and younger, healthier patients tend to live longer than do men and older patients with the same disease.(2) (6)

Blood characteristics

Microscope Icon Blood characteristics High blood platelet count (thrombocytosis) is associated with shorter life expectancy.(14)

Improving Mesothelioma Survival

Each mesothelioma cancer patient is unique. However, survival rates may be improved when patients:

  • See doctors who are focused solely on mesothelioma.
  • Receive more than one form of treatment, such as a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
  • Have access to new and innovative therapies, such as immunotherapy and mesothelioma vaccines.(6)

Mesothelioma Help

Weitz & Luxenberg, a top mesothelioma law firm, looks forward to a time when mesothelioma victims’ lives can be prolonged and their quality of life enhanced. In addition to supporting promising mesothelioma research, our law firm has helped more than 33,000 mesothelioma victims seek compensation for their pain and suffering. In our nearly 40 years of asbestos litigation experience, we’ve secured more than $8.5 billion for mesothelioma victims and their families.*

We would be honored to help you achieve the justice you deserve. For a free consultation, call (833) 977-3437 or fill out a form to speak with one of our reputable mesothelioma attorneys.