6 factors affecting life expectancy for mesothelioma patients

With the right intervention, most health-related problems might be easy to cure. However, others are more chronic and often life-threatening. One such disease is mesothelioma or cancer in the mesothelium, a layer of tissue covering internal organs. In rare cases, it may be treatable but mostly proves fatal. Mesothelioma is of different types, depending on where the cancerous growth occurs. Pleural mesothelioma (in the tissue surrounding the lungs) is most common. Another common type is peritoneal mesothelioma (in the abdomen’s tissue). The symptoms experienced differ between the various types. For example, a person suffering from pleural mesothelioma will show symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, weight loss, and painful coughing. Such symptoms can occur in many other diseases, and most mesothelioma signs are not unique to it. 

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, experts will provide you with different treatment options. Chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and surgery are some common interventions for cancers. Treatment of any cancer is costly. It can cost you between $11,000 and $12,000 monthly, though the cost varies largely depending on the patient’s condition. In addition to the medical bills, there are several related expenses. Lost income, prolonged at-home care and travel expenses all add to the financial stress for patients and their families. To help relieve some of this burden, you can apply for mesothelioma compensation. Since mesothelioma is mainly a result of asbestos exposure (a mineral used by construction and related industries), victims may file for compensation. After a mesothelioma lawsuit, the payment you get might vary between $1 to $1.4 billion.

Mesothelioma is fatal for most. Families of patients who pass away from mesothelioma can also receive compensation to alleviate the financial burden following the death of a breadwinner. On average, most patients’ life expectancy is 12-21 months. However, several factors influence the life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient. Let us now discuss some of these below. 

1. Type of mesothelioma

Treatment of tumorous growth in certain body parts is more complicated than others. Some organs are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the tumor. For instance, a patient with pericardial mesothelioma – in the pericardium lining the heart – has a much lower life expectancy than someone with peritoneal mesothelioma. Patients with pericardial mesothelioma have an average life expectancy of 6 months. Those with pleural mesothelioma may live up to 18 months, and patients of the peritoneal type may have 2 to 6 years. 

2. Cell type

Mesothelioma cells can be classified as Sarcomatoid, Epithelioid, or Biphasic. The Sarcomatoid cells are the fastest to spread and the Epithelioid the slowest. The Epithelioid cells are most responsive to treatment. Life expectancy is thus highest for patients with Epithelioid mesothelioma (12-24 months). Those with Sarcomatoid cell mesothelioma may only live as long as 6 months. Biphasic tumors include Sarcomatoid and Epithelioid cells. Hence, the prognosis depends on the relative amount of both. More epithelial cells equal a better prognosis. So the cell type and location of the tumor influence life expectancy. 

3. Stage of mesothelioma at the time of treatment

If you were at stage 1 or 2 of mesothelioma when you sought treatment, the prognosis is best because cancer has not spread a lot. By stages 3 and 4, cancer has spread way beyond the origin of the tumor. Pleural mesothelioma is typically not diagnosed until the patient is at stage 3 or 4. Therefore life expectancy on average is lower for this type. For pleural type, at stage 1, the tumor is localized. At stage 2, it has spread to the diaphragm and lymph nodes. By stage 4, it has spread all over the chest area and affects nearby organs, bone cells, and blood. At this point, recovery is least likely.

Life expectancy is higher in early-stage patients because they are better suited to aggressive treatments at this stage. These treatments result in better outcomes.

4. Gender of the patient

Research shows that women with mesothelioma live significantly longer than male patients. This is because men are more likely than women to be exposed to asbestos (a risk factor for mesothelioma) when working in industries. According to a study, female patients are 3 times more likely than men to have a good chance of long-term survival. Another study revealed that women lived 8 months longer than men on average.

5. Age and health of the patient at diagnosis

In general, the older the patient, the shorter the life expectancy. This is generally because older patients have poorer overall health. According to a study, a person diagnosed at age 44 had a life expectancy six times more than patients diagnosed at age 75 or above. Patients who have better overall health are better candidates for aggressive treatment interventions. Also, patients who have other medical conditions have fewer treatment options. For instance, patients with heart diseases, blood pressure problems, or diabetes are at higher risk if treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

6. Other lifestyle factors

Patients with a history of smoking have a poorer diagnosis than non-smokers. If you smoked frequently and suffered from asbestos exposure, you are more likely than non-smokers to develop pleural mesothelioma.

Those with low hemoglobin and platelet count also have a lower life expectancy than others. Chemotherapy may lower hemoglobin levels, and those with already low levels experience shortness of breath, tiredness, and light-headedness after treatment.

How can life expectancy be improved?

Once you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, uncertainties may surround you, and rightfully so. However, the road after that isn’t so bleak. You can take measures to improve life expectancy and undergo treatment to increase your chances of survival. Maintaing a healthy lifestyle is essential. Although the diagnosis is likely to upset you, try your best to maintain an active lifestyle. Intensive surgeries are most successful in fit people. Make sure your diet is nutritious, and you take enough calories. A proper diet will keep your immune system active and provide energy to fight against cancerous cells. It also helps recover from intense treatments faster.

Secondly, look for advanced and emerging treatments that offer better results. If you are in good health, you can go for aggressive treatments like immunotherapy or gene therapy. Seek treatment as soon as possible because the earlier you intervene, the better the prognosis.

Final words

Mesothelioma is cancer that is life-threatening for most. However, the patient’s life expectancy depends on a range of factors. By improving your lifestyle and seeking timely intervention, you can increase your life expectancy and live a better life than you must anticipate.