What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?

doctor showing patient xray of lungs

Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer primarily caused by asbestos exposure. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, then you probably have a lot of questions about what the future holds. One of the biggest queries you have is most likely about life expectancy, what impacts survivability, and how to treat it.

What Is the Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma?

Treatments such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are available for mesothelioma, but unfortunately, a cure is not possible for most people. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma ranges from 18 to 31 months. However, several factors may affect life expectancy after diagnosis, including advancements in treatment options. Other factors include mesothelioma type, when the diagnosis occurs, the age and health of the individual, and more. 

Life Expectancy by Mesothelioma Type

The life expectancy for mesothelioma can depend on where cancer occurs in the body. Determining the cell type is also incredibly important in determining a treatment plan, which can impact survivability. In some forms of mesothelioma, life expectancy has been extended to five years. 

Mesothelioma Cell Types

The three main mesothelioma cell types are epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. Additionally, there are rare subtypes that exist within each of these categories.

  • Epithelioid: Makes up to 70% of all mesothelioma cases. It’s typically responsive to treatment.
  • Sarcomatoid: Fast-spreading cell types that make up between 10% to 20% of all cases. It’s more aggressive, harder to diagnose, and more difficult to treat.
  • Biphasic: Contain both epithelial and sarcomatoid cells, accounting for 20% to 30% of cases. Life expectancy and treatment options are better if there are more epithelial cells.

In addition to that, there are four types of mesothelioma divided by where the tumors develop in the body: 

1. Pleural Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

This type of mesothelioma affects the tissue around the lungs. It is the most common type of this aggressive cancer, representing 75% of all cases. 

The average survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is between eight to 14 months, but the prognosis can often be difficult to determine because each individual responds differently to treatment. By a year after diagnosis, the survival rates are:

  • 1 year: 73%
  • 3 years: 23%
  • 5 years: 12%
  • 10 years: 4.5%

Life expectancy can also vary by how early the cancer is diagnosed. Pleural mesothelioma is the only type that experts know enough about to use an official staging system. Survival rates by stage in patients eligible for surgery are:

  • Stage 1: 22.2 months
  • Stage 2: 20.0 months
  • Stage 3: 17.9 months
  • Stage 4: 14.9 months

As with most forms of cancer, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome. However, two-thirds of cases are diagnosed only after the cancer has progressed.

2. Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The second-most common form of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma represents 20% of all cases. It affects the lining of the stomach, causing abdominal pain, swelling, and nausea. The survival rate for peritoneal mesothelioma is affected by stage and whether or not one is eligible for treatment.

3. Pericardial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Accounting for 1% of all cases, pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart, called the pericardium. This rare type of mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms, which include irregular heartbeat and chest pain, are so close to other chronic heart conditions. Sadly, between 40% to 60% of patients pass away within six months of receiving a diagnosis.

4. Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma accounts for less than 1% of all cases. It forms in the lining of the testes and its symptoms include swelling and the buildup of fluid.

Although rare, the life expectancy for testicular mesothelioma is better than forms with a medium life expectancy of about six years. Some patients have lived for 10 years or more, with treatment.

What Affects Mesothelioma Survival Rate?

Along with cell type, mesothelioma type, and how early mesothelioma has been diagnosed, other factors affect the life expectancy for mesothelioma. These include:


In general, older people diagnosed with mesothelioma have a shorter life expectancy. Patients under 45 years old tend to have a longer life expectancy. However,  the majority of mesothelioma patients are over the age of 65


Multiple studies show that younger female patients with mesothelioma tend to have better survivability rates. But, this also depends on the level of asbestos exposure.


Overall health is another factor that may affect life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis. 

Studies show that smoking can make pleural mesothelioma even worse. It can also increase the risk of lung cancer after long-term asbestos exposure. In addition to this, if the patient already has a high white blood cell count from fighting against another form of cancer, it can make it harder for the body to combat mesothelioma. 

What to Do If You’re Diagnosed With Mesothelioma

A treatment plan developed by an experienced oncologist may also help increase mesothelioma life expectancy. 

Many people diagnosed with mesothelioma and their loved ones may face several questions, including whether or not they may be entitled to compensation as a result of exposure. An experienced mesothelioma attorney at Cooney & Conway can help guide you through the process. Fill out a free case evaluation to be connected to an expert.