Mesothelioma prognosis & life expectancy

How long will I live with mesothelioma?

Prognosis can be defined as, “the likely outcome of a medical condition.” Generally, when people ask about their prognosis they are concerned about life expectancy, in other words, how long they will live.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer which develops after a person has suffered past exposure to airborne asbestos dust. The symptoms of mesothelioma can take decades to appear and often only surface in the later stages of the disease. For this reason, people who develop mesothelioma tend to receive a negative prognosis. Sadly, patients with the disease are, on average, told they only have 12 to 18 months left to live.

The prognosis for mesothelioma is based on a number of factors, including the stage of your cancer, your overall health, and the type of mesothelioma you have. For example, whether you have pleural, peritoneal, pericardial or testicular mesothelioma.

Determining your prognosis

There are several factors that can affect a malignant mesothelioma prognosis, including the following:

  • Type – Asbestos related cancer comes in several types and each type has its own prognosis. Generally speaking, patients with peritoneal mesothelioma will have a more favourable prognosis;
  • Cell type – The type of cells that make up the mesothelioma tumour can impact prognosis.  Patients with epithelioid mesothelioma are generally more responsive to treatment and, therefore, often have a better prognosis than those diagnosed with sarcomatoid mesothelioma.
  • Location – Mesothelioma is also classified on the basis of location. For example, pericardial mesothelioma, found in the tissue around the heart, is generally harder to treat than pleural mesothelioma, because it is a difficult area to treat;
  • Stage – Another factor to consider is the size of the tumour and the ‘stage’ of the mesothelioma. Patients with stage 1 or stage 2 (early-stage) cancer will typically have a better prognosis than patients with stage 3 or stage 4 cancers which have reached an advanced stage. Doctors may not always be able to accurately stage your cancer because you will need an operation for this. In general, most people with mesothelioma do not have surgery;
  • Symptoms – Patients suffering from serious symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, may receive a more negative prognosis. This is because suffering with these symptoms often suggests that the cancer may have progressed;
  • General health – Age and lifestyle will also have an impact on the survival rate, with younger, stronger people more likely to survive longer.


Treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy and radiotherapy may help those suffering with mesothelioma to live longer, as well as relieving symptoms. If you are diagnosed at stage 1 or 2 you are more likely to qualify for surgery than if you are diagnosed at stage 3 or 4.

However, with continued advancements in research and treatment, patients are generally surviving for longer. Mesothelioma specialists working in leading cancer centres throughout the world are refining surgeries and increasing survival rates. Clinical trials also offer access to emerging treatment, including ground-breaking immunotherapy treatment that can potentially extend life expectancy. As a result of these advancements, in rare cases, some people with mesothelioma have survived for over 10 years with the disease.

Survival statistics

The following statistics are taken from the Cancer Research UK website, and are based on people diagnosed with mesothelioma in England between 2010 and 2014.

1 year survival: Almost 50% of men survive their mesothelioma for 1 year or more after diagnosis. Around 50% of women survive for 1 year or more after diagnosis.

5 year survival: Around 5% of men survive their mesothelioma for 5 years following their diagnosis. Around 10% of women survive their mesothelioma 5 years after diagnosis.

As these statistics show, women with mesothelioma generally have a better prognosis.

How to improve your prognosis

You cannot change important factors such as the stage and type of mesothelioma you have. However, you can still take some steps to improve your prognosis.

Early diagnosis

Although diagnosing mesothelioma early can be difficult if you have no symptoms, detecting mesothelioma early on, before it spreads into lymph nodes and other parts of the body, will improve your prognosis.

Mesothelioma is caused by being exposed to airborne asbestos. Therefore, if you believe you have had exposure to asbestos in the past, seek advice from your GP. If they believe you are at a greater risk of developing an asbestos-related disease, they may suggest monitoring your health more closely by arranging regular x-rays and scans.

Consulting a specialist

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer and a limited number of GPs have seen the disease or have any experience in treating it. Therefore, choosing an experienced mesothelioma specialist is the most important step a patient can take to improve their prognosis.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials play an essential role in the development of new treatments. Many emerging treatments are being developed and tested through clinical trials at top treatment centres throughout the country. Patients can join a clinical trial to gain access to treatments that can make a significant difference to how long they will live. Find information about the latest clinical trials by clicking here.

Overall health

Your immune system plays an important role in defending you against mesothelioma. The healthier you are, the better your prognosis. You should, therefore, make healthy choices, such as eating well and giving up smoking. Exercise can also help to improve your prognosis.

Every case is unique

It is important to remember that no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. Your doctor may be able to give you more information about your specific outlook, but this will still only be an informed estimate.

How can we help?

We help people to claim compensation for mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases. Thousands of people across the UK have been routinely and unlawfully exposed to deadly asbestos fibres. Whatever your circumstances, simply tell us a little about yourself, your condition and your work history. Our expert team will do the rest.

We’re here to help and ready to take your call. Freephone 0800 038 6767 or visit our contact us page by clicking here.