Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that attacks the lining of the stomach, heart, or lungs. Its sole known cause is exposure to asbestos. A combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and experimental drugs can increase the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients, but although medical organizations are sponsoring dozens of clinical trials around the world, as of yet there is no universal cure for mesothelioma. The life expectancy of patients with mesothelioma depends on a variety of different factors, but the prognosis is usually not positive. In most studies, only about 10 percent of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are still alive after a five-year period.

Patients who have pleural mesothelioma have the most treatment options available to them, but those who suffer from peritoneal, testicular, or pericardial mesothelioma have far fewer treatment options for a much more aggressive cancer. Subclassifications of malignant mesothelioma also play a role in patient life expectancy. People diagnosed with sarcomatoid mesothelioma are not expected to live past 207 days. Those who have epithelial mesothelioma are predicted to live for 242 days, and patients diagnosed with biphasic mesothelioma are not expected to live past 142 days.

Factors that Affect Life Expectancy

A patient's age, race, and gender may play a significant role. Men who are 55 and older comprise about 75 percent of mesothelioma cases in the United States, since they were among the most likely to be handling asbestos before its lethal side effects were discovered. In fact, mesothelioma affects men four times more often than women. Caucasians and Hispanics are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than Asians or African Americans.

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Elderly patients may suffer from other medical conditions that impede treatment, reducing their lifespan. Additionally, patients of any age who smoke worsen their condition, potentially reducing their life expectancy dramatically.

Mesothelioma is notoriously hard to diagnose, since many of its symptoms resemble those of other less serious ailments. In addition, it has a long latency period, sometimes failing to present symptoms until decades after a patient was originally exposed to asbestos. By the time many people receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma, the cancer is in its last stages, making it aggressive and very difficult to control.

Mesothelioma treatments are generally not very effective when the disease is in stage three or four. Although new drugs like Alimta are helping to increase the life expectancy of many mesothelioma patients, one-year survival rates are still not usually higher than 40 percent.

Improving your Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma patients have a much greater life expectancy when they are diagnosed and treated early. Life expectancy decreases drastically with each consecutive stage of the cancer. Patients diagnosed early who are young and in good health may be eligible for an aggressive treatment program that surgically resects the tumor, combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation. Clinical trials testing new drugs and other experimental treatments may also help to prolong a patient's lifespan.

Lately, scientists have been focusing on developing tools that can identify mesothelioma in its early stages, even before the advent of any symptoms. One such tool is a blood test with the ability to recognize a biomarker that presages mesothelioma.

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