Mesothelioma – Causes, Symptoms, Types, Survival Rate

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What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the linings of the lungs, abdomen or heart. Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma. The average life expectancy of mesothelioma patients is 12 – 21 months after diagnosis. Symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath and general fatigue.  Before getting to the survival rates of different sorts of mesothelioma, one must deeply know the basic information regarding the mesothelioma. This includes, types, causes, stages, symptoms etc. In this article you will find all that required information needed to know the survival rates of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma - Causes, Symptoms, Types, Survival Rate

What is the cause of Mesothelioma?

Asbestos is the only definitive cause of mesothelioma, accounting for at least 90% of mesothelioma cases. However, researchers have identified a variety of other risk factors that can increase the risk of developing mesothelioma, like a history of smoking. Better understanding the cause of mesothelioma can help prevent the disease, promote awareness and improve detection and treatments. Mesothelioma develops in the mesothelium, a thin membrane encompassing the body’s internal organs and cavities. It often takes 10 to 50 years for symptoms to manifest, making it difficult to pinpoint the cause and challenging the possibility for early detection. In the majority of cases, the cause is exposure to asbestos.

Where Does Asbestos Exposure Occur?

Asbestos exposure is most common in a workplace environment, though exposure can also happen through secondary exposure in homes, in schools, at construction sites and many other locations. With occupational exposure, there have been many cases of second-hand exposure as well, such as family members coming into contact with clothing and materials that have collected microscopic asbestos fibres. Asbestos has also been found in common household items, such as talcum powder, potting soils and paint. It’s important to be aware of all asbestos products and understand when you might be at high risk for exposure.

How Asbestos causes Cancer?

In the most common scenario, asbestos fibres are inhaled and eventually become embedded in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart, causing harmful inflammation that eventually leads to the formation of mesothelioma tumours. Peritoneal mesothelioma is associated with the abdomen, pleural mesothelioma with the lungs, and pericardial mesothelioma with the heart.

Common areas with occupational exposure:

  • Asbestos mines
  • Auto shops and car dealers
  • Construction and demolition
  • Fire fighting
  • Insulation installation

As generally understood by researchers, asbestos can cause DNA damage both directly and indirectly. Directly, asbestos interferes with the mitosis process in cell division, which can cause cellular damage and mutation. Indirectly, asbestos can cause mesothelial cells to release mutagenic reactive oxygen and nitrogen, which also causes mutation. Though there are common symptoms of mesothelioma, they may vary based on mesothelioma type and staging. There is a long latency period for mesothelioma, meaning it can take 10 – 50 years for these symptoms to emerge. The best way to improve mesothelioma prognosis is early detection. If patients experience any common symptoms of malignant mesothelioma, they should seek medical evaluation right away. Patients diagnosed at early stages are typically able to undergo more treatment options, extending their life expectancy.

What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Common signs and symptoms of Mesothelioma:

  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Anaemia
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Fatigue

There are many factors that can challenge early detection of mesothelioma, including its rarity and long latency period. Symptoms may emerge any time from 10 to 50 years after asbestos exposure, the only known cause of the disease. Other factors that may impact the onset of symptoms include:

  • Duration of exposure: Individuals exposed to asbestos for longer periods of time may experience symptoms sooner than those with one-off exposures.
  • Amount of exposure: Individuals exposed to asbestos in large quantities may develop symptoms sooner than those exposed to low levels.
  • Type of asbestos: Crocidolite is considered to cause a higher risk of health concerns than other types of the mineral, potentially leading to earlier development of symptoms than with other types of asbestos.
  • Other factors: Stage of mesothelioma, cell type and metastasis (how the disease has spread) can also impact when and how symptoms manifest.

Although its use has diminished in recent decades, there are still many products that contain asbestos, especially in older homes, schools and public buildings. The mineral has not yet been banned in the United States, although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies have strict laws in place to help limit its use and prevent exposure. Asbestos is extremely hazardous when it becomes disrupted and airborne, as it is easily inhaled or ingested and can lead to many health concerns, including mesothelioma.

There are four primary types of malignant mesothelioma based on where the tumours initially develop following asbestos exposure: in the lining of the lungs (pleural), abdomen (peritoneal), heart (pericardial) or testicles (testicular). Mesothelioma is further categorized by cell type, which can impact diagnosis, prognosis and available treatment options. The most common cell types for mesothelioma are sarcomatoid and epithelioid.

What are the types of mesothelioma based on location?

Mesothelioma cancer forms after a person has been exposed to asbestos fibers. Years after initial exposure has occurred, abnormal cells begin to grow and multiply in the mesothelium, a thin layer of cells lining the outside of internal organs, including the lungs, heart, abdomen and testicles. The location of the tumours is the primary method for determining the type of mesothelioma.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura, and is the most common form of the aggressive disease. Approximately 80% of all diagnosed cases of mesothelioma are pleural, and the disease is often not definitively diagnosed until it has progressed into its later stages.

Symptoms associated with pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain and fatigue, which are sometimes misattributed to other diseases, like lung cancer. Nonspecific symptoms, along with the long latency period after exposure to asbestos, complicate diagnosis. On average, pleural mesothelioma patients survive six to twelve months after diagnosis, with a one-year survival rate of about 73% and five-year survival rate of about 5%.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second-most common type of the cancer and is diagnosed in about 15-20% of all mesothelioma cases. Cancer cells grow in the lining of the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum, causing symptoms like abdominal pain and swelling, weight loss and fluid in the abdomen.

Though the general prognosis for peritoneal mesothelioma is poor, patients have a better life expectancy than other forms of the disease thanks to advancements in treatment, like surgery combined with hyper thermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). Peritoneal mesothelioma patients have a one-year survival rate of 92%. In addition, at least 50% of patients who undergo surgery combined with HIPEC will live give years or more.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare form of the cancer and is diagnosed in less than 50 people in the United States each year, accounting for about 1% of the total number of cases. Mesothelioma tumours form in the lining of the heart sac, called the pericardium, causing symptoms like chest pain, fluid build-up and arrhythmia.

Because of the tumours’ proximity to the heart, patients may experience severe symptoms even at early stages. Due to its rarity, the general prognosis for pericardial mesothelioma is very poor. Patients survive six months on average, with a one-year survival rate of 51%. In most cases, pericardial mesothelioma patients only have palliative care options available to help alleviate symptoms.

Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma is diagnosed in less than one percent of all cases and there are only about 100 diagnosed cases described in medical literature. The cancer develops in the tunica vaginalis, the lining of the testicles, and typically presents symptoms like testicle pain, a mass on the testicle, and scrotal swelling caused by fluid build-up.

Patients with this type of mesothelioma have a better life expectancy than other forms, with an average prognosis of about two years. However, studies have shown that testicular mesothelioma does have a high rate of recurrence, including almost 93% of patients within five years of their initial diagnosis.


The prognosis for mesothelioma is poor, with most patients living less than one year. The type of mesothelioma, stage of the cancer, and patient health are the three most important factors used to determine prognosis. Mesothelioma prognosis can be improved by receiving treatment at a centre that has a multidisciplinary physician team that has experience in evaluating and treating mesothelioma.

Malignant mesothelioma is aggressive and has a long latency period, which means it usually remains undetected until the cancer has reached an advanced stage. There is no cure for mesothelioma, though the prognosis has been slowly improving over the years. This improvement in prognosis is due to the development of experimental treatments, new detection and diagnostic methods, and other areas of research in clinical trials.

What is life expectancy/survival rate?

Average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is 12 – 21 months. How long a patient lives depends on several factors, including age, stage of the disease and overall health. Approximately 40% of patients live past one year, and 9% live longer than five years.

Surviving Mesothelioma is very difficult. Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer with symptoms that don’t typically show up until the later stages. Life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is generally short, especially without treatment, and varies significantly from patient to patient based on a number of individual factors and circumstances. Long-term survival is extremely rare, with fewer than 10% of patients living beyond five years. Early detection and quality health care are the most important factors in improving one’s prognosis.

Which Factors Affect the Life Expectancy?

The life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient is difficult to determine, as it depends on a variety of factors.


An early mesothelioma diagnosis can improve life expectancy significantly. When diagnosed at an early stage (stage 1 or stage 2), there is little or no spreading, and treatments are likely to be more effective. However, at stages 3 and 4, the mesothelioma has spread to the lymph nodes and distant organs, which makes treatment more difficult.


Location is another factor that strongly influences life expectancy. Testicular mesothelioma is very rare but has the greatest potential for cure, with a 5-year survival rate of nearly 50%. Of the other mesothelioma types, peritoneal mesothelioma generally has the best prognosis with an average survival of one year, while malignant pleural mesothelioma patients typically survive 6 – 12 months. Pericardial mesothelioma has the least favourable life expectancy and is often diagnosed posthumously, though detection and life expectancy are improving due to the development of more effective diagnostic tools and treatments.

Cell Type

Mesothelioma can be categorized into three different cell types. They are, epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic (a mixture of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells). Typically, those with epithelioid mesothelioma have a significantly longer life expectancy than those with sarcomatoid mesothelioma, due to slower metastasis of the cancer cells and better responsiveness to treatment. Those with biphasic mesothelioma have a varied life expectancy depending on which cell type is dominant.

The four stages of mesothelioma allow doctors to identify and classify the severity and progression of the cancer at diagnosis. Early stages offer the most hopeful prognosis, while the later stages of mesothelioma limit life expectancy and treatment options.

Mesothelioma staging refers to the process of categorizing malignant mesothelioma according to the extent of the disease in a patient’s body. Staging is a process applied to all types of cancer, although specific staging systems are often developed based on characteristics of specific cancers, like mesothelioma.

What are Mesothelioma survival rates?

Approximately 55% of mesothelioma patients live longer than six months, while roughly 35% live longer than one year. Only 9% survive longer than five years. Testicular and peritoneal patients typically have the best survival rates, followed by pleural and pericardial mesothelioma. These are the survival rates of Mesothelioma. Survival rates for Mesothelioma, vary depending on type of mesothelioma. Given below are the survival rates for Mesothelioma cancer.

What are Peritoneal Mesothelioma survival rates?

92% of them have an one year lifetime while 74% members live for about three years, 65% members live for 5 years, 39% patients live for ten years.

What are Pleural Mesothelioma survival rates?

73% patients live for nearly one year, 23% of them live for about three years, 12% of them live for approximately five years and 4.7% of those people live for nearly ten years.

What are Mesothelioma surgery survival rates?

65% of such people live for about two years while, 20% of them live for about five years.

Mesothelioma survival rate without treatment

As there is no cure, in stages 1and 2, the life span can be increased. However, the survival rates are same in other two stages as of those in mesothelioma surgery.

Is Mesothelioma always fatal?

Yes, it is fatal. It might not lead to death immediately. But leads to death from nearly 12 months after its first diagnosis.

Can Mesothelioma ever be cured?

There is no cure for Mesothelioma. At any stage, it can’t be cured. However, the prognosis at stages 1 and 2 is favourable.

What are Abdominal Mesothelioma survival rates?

Nearly 73% live more than one year while less than 12% live more than five year.

What are Biphasic Mesothelioma survival rates?

This type has survival rates of 12 months approximately.

Mesothelioma survival rates in UK

In UK, the survival rates for more than five year life span have been decreasing with increasing age of the individuals. At an age of 15-49 years old, it is 13% while at an age of 80-99 years old, it is 4%.

Mesothelioma survival rates Australia

For a life expectancy for more than five years, the affected members survival rate is approximately 6%. The rest 94% is the mesothelioma mortality rates Australia.

Mesothelioma survival rates in Canada

For a life expectancy for more than five years, the affected members survival rate is approximately 7%.

Mesothelioma survival rates in Ireland

For a life expectancy for more than five years, the affected members survival rate is approximately 4.5%. This is because nearly 71% members died due to this within in one year of diagnosis.

Mesothelioma survival rates at Stage 1

For a life expectancy for more than five years, the affected members survival rate is approximately 18% while for a life span of one year, it is 41-46%.

Mesothelioma survival rates at Stage 2

For a life expectancy for more than five years, the affected members survival rate is approximately 10% while for a life span of two years, it is 38%.

Mesothelioma survival rates at Stage 3

For a life expectancy for more than five years, the affected members survival rate is too low, while for a life span of two years, it is 26-30%.

Mesothelioma survival rates Stage at 4

For a life expectancy for more than five years, the affected members survival rate is approximately 1% while for a life span of two years, it is 17%.

Stage 4 peritoneal mesothelioma survival rates

Even in this, it is same with 17% for about two years and 1% for nearly five years of life. These are the specific survival rates for peritoneal mesothelioma. All the above given data is regarding the mesothelioma cancer survival rates.

What are the four stages of Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma has four stages that doctors can use to determine cancer progression. During diagnosis, the doctor will determine whether the cancer is stage 1, 2, 3 or 4, with stage 4 being the most advanced stage.

What are Mesothelioma Staging Systems?

Mesothelioma specialists often rely on general cancer staging characteristics to stage the disease, such as those put forth in the American Joint Committee on Cancer’s AJCC Cancer Staging Manual.

Pleural mesothelioma is the only type that has unique staging systems, including the Butchart, Brigham and TNM system. The Peritoneal Cancer Index (PCI) is sometimes referenced when staging peritoneal mesothelioma, looking at tumour size and extent throughout distinct areas of the abdomen and totalling the score to determine stage. The rarest of all mesothelioma types, pericardial and testicular mesothelioma, do not have their own staging system due to a lack of case studies and information on cancer progression.

Butchart Staging System

Proposed in 1976, the Butchart System is the oldest formal mesothelioma staging system. It relies on determining the location of the primary tumour mass in the body for each stage. It does not take into account the size of the tumour, the number of cancer cells present or the overall level of cancer in the body. Other systems based on the Butchart system have been proposed over the last 30 years. For example, in 1982, Karin Mattson proposed a variation on the Butchart System that offered more concise and precise descriptions of each stage.

Brigham Staging System

In 1993, while working at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Dr. David Sugarbaker and several colleagues developed the Brigham/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute staging system (often shortened to the Brigham staging system). The system was initially based on clinical experience with 52 patients and updated in 1998 based on subsequent experience. The Brigham staging system places an emphasis on surgery as a mesothelioma treatment option. Generally, stage 1 and stage 2 mesothelioma tumours are viable candidates for removal. By the time the mesothelioma cancer reaches the lymph nodes (stage 3) or metastasizes into other areas of the body (stage 4), surgery is no longer a valid option.

TNM Staging System

The Tumour, Nodes and Metastasis (TNM) staging system was developed by French physician Pierre Denoix in the 1940s. Since then it has evolved into a basis for staging many cancers. The first mesothelioma-specific TNM staging system was developed by A. P. Chahinian in the early 1980s. This system is the most common and is frequently updated according to new research in the mesothelioma field. Doctors look at tumour size and extent, lymph node involvement and metastasis to classify the stage of pleural mesothelioma that a patient has. This system also breaks down the four stages even further to include stages 1A, 1B, 3A and 3B.

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