Life Expectancy with Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos and comes with a life expectancy of around 12 to 16 months. This aggressive form of cancer has multiple stages and subtypes that contribute to life expectancy. 

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the lining of multiple organs including the abdomen, heart, lungs, and more.

The most common type of mesothelioma affects the thin layer of tissue surrounding the lungs. In any of its types, mesothelioma is a deadly cancer. 

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of someone who is diagnosed with mesothelioma varies greatly from person to person, depending on what part of the body is impacted, at what stage the cancer is upon diagnosis, and the patient’s overall health. 

Mesothelioma is characterized in four stages:

  • Stage 1 mesothelioma – Small number of cancerous cells which are localized, life expectancy averages 21 months. 
  • Stage 2 mesothelioma – Moderate amount of cancerous cells localized to the membrane and an average life expectancy of 19 months. 
  • Stage 3 mesothelioma – Large number of cancerous cells that have spread to other parts of the body, averaging 16-month life expectancy. 
  • Stage 4 mesothelioma – Advanced cancer and people diagnosed with stage 4 have a life expectancy averaging 12 months. 

With surgery, life expectancy can be increased by a few months on average. 

Types of Mesothelioma

There are specific types of mesothelioma with their own characteristics. Pleural mesothelioma is cancer that occurs in the membrane which surrounds the lungs. This type of mesothelioma, when treated with surgery, has an average life expectancy of three years. Typically, only about 23% of patients live beyond three years after surgery. 

Peritoneal mesothelioma is an even more rare form of mesothelioma that requires aggressive treatment. This type of cancer occurs in the lining of the abdomen and is caused by the ingestion of asbestos. 

Surgery for this type of mesothelioma is usually more effective than surgery for pleural mesothelioma and the life expectancy averages about five years post-surgery. 

There are other types of mesothelioma that impact certain membranes in the body. These are the rarest forms of mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining around the heart and testicular mesothelioma impacts the membrane within the testes. 

Pericardial mesothelioma has a short life expectancy, averaging just 6 to 10 months. For testicular mesothelioma, life span is approximately two years on average. 

Life Expectancy Factors

There are a few factors that can impact a person’s life expectancy when they have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Those factors include the person’s age, gender, and overall health as well as their lifestyle and characteristics. 

Other factors that determine life expectancy are the stage of cancer and where in the body the cancer is located. Finally, the course of treatment also can impact someone’s life expectancy when living with mesothelioma. 


Age is a big variable when it comes to predicting life expectancy. Older patients are less likely to live as long as younger patients who have mesothelioma. Young patients are often more likely to be accepted into clinical trial programs and have more options to battle the disease. 

This is why it is important to see a doctor as soon as you recognize any symptoms of mesothelioma, or if you have been exposed to asbestos or lived with someone who has. 

Even when older patients with mesothelioma go through surgery to treat cancer, the effects and risks of the surgery can be more serious than for a younger patient. 


Men are much more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than women. This is likely due to the fact that the industries that were exposed to asbestos mostly employed male workers, or were male-dominated fields like construction, shipbuilding, and factory work. 

Women can still be diagnosed with mesothelioma, though, either from direct asbestos exposure or secondhand exposure from someone who was working directly with asbestos. 

About 15.6% of women survive when living with mesothelioma for five years or more, compared to just 8.8% of men living for more than five years. 

Can Treatment Increase Life Expectancy?

Treatment can and usually does increase life expectancy in those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma. 

Treatment in the early stages of mesothelioma usually includes radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. Sometimes patients diagnosed with stage three mesothelioma who are healthy or younger may qualify for these types of treatment as well. These types of treatment can increase life expectancy anywhere from a few months to a few years. 

If you are in the late stages of mesothelioma, such as stage 3 or 4, it is possible that surgery will not be an option.

Living With a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

There are some things you can do while living with mesothelioma in order to increase your life expectancy. 

Regular exercise improves health in numerous ways. It not only makes you physically stronger and healthier, but it also improves your mental and emotional health. Make sure you get out and exercise a few times a week to stay in the best physical health possible. 

Your nutrition also plays a major factor in your overall health. Make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet. This will improve your immune system and help your body recover after any surgeries you may have. 

A combination of diet and exercise will improve your overall health, which will in turn increase your life expectancy. 

See Your Doctor

If you think you may have mesothelioma, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible so it can be diagnosed early.

Make sure to tell your doctor about any possible asbestos exposure from you or a family member so they know about your history and susceptibility to the disease.