Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Once a patient is diagnosed, a doctor will likely discuss their prognosis, or probable course and outcome of the cancer’s influence on the body. The best way to avoid a poor prognosis is through early detection. Mesothelioma is not generally diagnosed until the latest stages of development because of the amount of time it takes for patients to display symptoms associated with the disease. In addition to this, the symptoms of mesothelioma are very general and often resemble less serious conditions, which can make the cancer difficult to diagnose. As a result, the prognosis for the majority of patients is poor, but many doctors can recommend treatment options such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to help combat the disease.
Doctors typically address the cancer in terms of stages, ranging from stage one to stage four. Unfortunately, once mesothelioma cancer has reached stage three or four, treatment options not only become more limited but less effective as well. When a patient is diagnosed with stage four mesothelioma, their health condition often rules out the possibility of surgery. Treating mesothelioma becomes more difficult the later a diagnosis occurs…..
In addition to the stage of the cancer and the age of the patient, other factors that affect prognosis include:
- The type of mesothelioma – pleural, peritoneal, pericardial or testicular
- The size of the tumor
- The location of the tumor and whether it can be surgically removed
- The extent of other symptoms, including fluid in the lungs or abdomen
- Whether or not the patient is a smoker
Malignant mesothelioma is typically diagnosed in individuals over 55 years old, though there are certainly exceptions. Some patients already have multiple medical problems caused by advancing age, making treatment even more difficult and increasing the mortality rate among mesothelioma patients.
Many studies have been conducted in regards to survival rates among mesothelioma patients. When discussing survival rates for this or any type of cancer, references to the “five-year relative survival rate” are often stated. This number refers to the percentage of patients who live at least five years after their cancer is diagnosed.
According to statistics published by the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate for patients with mesothelioma is approximately 10 percent. That number has improved in the last five years, up from 9 percent reported at the end of 2002. In addition, recent studies show that the one-year survival rate is now about 40 percent, a number that has also increased in the past five years. Throughout the 1990s, it was rare for a patient to survive more than a year after diagnosis.
Though numerous factors affect a patient’s prognosis such as age, overall health, and the type of mesothelioma the patient is battling, the average length of survival reported throughout the last five years has been 10 to 11 months after diagnosis.