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What should mesothelioma victims know about survival rates?

On Behalf of | Aug 18, 2023 | Mesothelioma/Asbestos-Related Illness

One of the scariest things about receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis is that it can grab you and thrust you face-to-face with your own mortality.

This is true of any cancer diagnosis, but mesothelioma has a notoriously bad reputation. This owes largely to its low survival rate. But don’t panic. These numbers may not tell your story. There are several things you should know about what that survival rate really means.

Breaking down the numbers on mesothelioma life expectancy

After a cancer diagnosis, your first question might be whether you can get rid of it. If that seems unlikely, your next question might be how much time you have left.

The first thing you should know about any answer you receive is that it’s, at best, an educated guess. The best your doctor can do is look at your specific situation and the general statistics. Then, your doctor can make a guess. The average life expectancy for someone who receives a mesothelioma diagnosis is 4 to 18 months.

More commonly, medical professionals talk about cancer survival rates. These numbers measure the percentage of people who live a certain number of years after their diagnosis. In the United States, the 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma is 12%.

It’s important to remember that these numbers are averages. And there are countless factors that can affect these averages:

  • The specific type of cancer
  • Its location
  • Its stage
  • Your age
  • Your treatment plan
  • Your general health
  • Your commitment to your treatment

The list goes on, but the point is that the average life expectancy tells the story of what happened to people before you. Your story is your own, and you can help write it.

How can you improve your life expectancy?

A recent study found that the number one factor that led to better treatment was the patient’s location. At first glance, this doesn’t make much sense, but it points at the real reason: Mesothelioma victims who lived closer to top-quality facilities were more likely to receive top-quality treatment.

Importantly, the study also found that 40% of all mesothelioma victims received no specific course of treatment. Remember that when you think about the numbers for life expectancy and survival rates. Nearly half of the people who received mesothelioma diagnoses did nothing to treat it. That’s certainly going to hurt their life expectancy.

On the other hand, the survey found that the most aggressive treatments tended to be the most effective. This typically meant going for surgery and following up with chemotherapy or combining chemotherapy and radiotherapy. You will need to talk to your doctor about your options, but the data suggest you want to be aggressive.

You are not a number

People talk about mesothelioma life expectancy and survival rates for a reason. But it’s important not to misinterpret that reason. These numbers do not define you. Rather, they help your doctor and other medical professionals think about how to approach your treatment.

Your situation is unique. There will be parts of your story that echo the stories of other mesothelioma patients, but it’s important to focus on your treatment, your life and your loved ones. One of the themes we’ve seen over and over among positive mesothelioma stories is that people focused on making the most of each day. However much time you have left, you want to make the most of it.

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