Most mesothelioma victims do not receive their diagnosis until the cancer has progressed to its late stages. As a result, the mesothelioma survival rate is lower than for many other cancers. But what is the survival rate? What does it mean for victims and their loved ones?
Here are seven important things for mesothelioma victims and their families to remember.
The survival rate is a rough statistic
In medicine, survival rates refer to the percentage of patients who survive for a specific amount of time after their diagnosis. The most common measurements are the 1-year and 5-year survival rates.
Relative survival rates adjust for age and other factors
Sometimes, researchers look at relative survival rates. These compare the survival rates of a group of people, such as mesothelioma victims, against the survival rates for an overall sample of people in the same age group. This helps researchers better understand how the disease affects survival.
Survival rates vary depending on the cancer stage
As the American Cancer Society notes, the 5-year survival rate for all stages of malignant pleural mesothelioma is 10 percent. But the data shows those who receive earlier diagnoses tend to live longer. The 5-year survival rate for those diagnosed:
- At the local stage is 18%
- At the regional stage is 12%
- At the distant stage is 7%
Survival rates also vary based on the location and cell type
There isn’t just one type of mesothelioma. The word covers a range of cancers that grow in different parts of the body and have different cell structures.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma, and it grows in the lining around the lungs. Peritoneal mesothelioma grows in the lining of the abdomen and has a higher survival rate. Rarer forms of mesothelioma may grow in the lining of the heart or testes. These rarer forms are generally harder to treat.
There are also three distinct types of mesothelioma cell types—epithelial, sarcomatoid and mixed. Sarcomatoid and mixed tumors are both rarer and harder to treat than epithelial tumors.
Your age, gender, race and general health may improve your odds
Most mesothelioma victims are older Caucasian men. As the American Society of Clinical Oncology notes, the average age for a diagnosis is 72. Accordingly, most mesothelioma survival rates assume a primarily Caucasian, male and older victim. Your survival rate improves if you are:
- A woman
- Under the age of 45
There is also a strong link between good overall health and a greater survival rate. Healthy eating and exercise are important both before and after the diagnosis.
Survival rates do not remain static
Mesothelioma survival rates have improved over the years. New research into the disease leads to newer and better treatments. These lead to improved survival rates.
The general survival rates do not define you
The survival rates you read about do not define you. They are estimates, but no one is an exactly average person. Everyone is unique, and your case is unique. This was something the famous scientist Dr. Stephen Jay Gould reminded himself when he received his mesothelioma diagnosis.
As a scientist, he understood both the value of statistics and the ways they could conceal individual truths. He didn’t ignore the numbers, but he understood his attitude also mattered. He did what he could to combat his disease, and he crushed the statistics. He lived for more than 20 years after his diagnosis.