The life expectancy for individuals diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma is low. Only 40 percent of these patients will survive as long as a single year; only 10 percent will survive as long as five years. Following treatment, the National Institute of Health estimates that half of all patients are looking at a life span that is only between eight and 18 months.
As discouraging as these statistics may seem, the truth is they are a great deal better than the survival rates for mesothelioma patients were a decade ago. The prognosis for mesothelioma patients is improving all the time.
Because mesothelioma most often is not diagnosed until a patient as progressed to stage 3 or stage 4 of the disease, treatment has only been effective enough to cause remission in a handful of cases. A number of factors influence a mesothelioma patient's longevity.
Histology: Mesothelioma cases can be categorized into three cell types: epithelial, sarcomatoid and cases in which both types of cells are found. Statistically, individuals with epithelial mesothelioma have a higher likelihood of living longer.
Location within the body: Individuals who have been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma have the best survival rates, probably because it is easier to treat mesothelioma that affects the lungs than it is to treat mesothelioma that affects the abdomen, the pericardium or the testicles.
Disease stage: The earlier any cancer including mesothelioma is detected, the greater the range of available treatment options and the more effective treatment will be. Because of mesothelioma's prolonged latency period, the disease commonly goes undiagnosed until it is at stage 3 or stage 4. Another factor contributing to late diagnoses is the fact that mesothelioma symptoms are often mistaken for the symptoms of other diseases.
General health status: Mesothelioma patients who do not smoke and do not suffer from other health complications have better survival rates than mesothelioma patients who smoke and suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease and/or other chronic health complaints.
In April 2011, Paul Kraus observed the 14th anniversary of his mesothelioma diagnosis. At the time of his diagnosis he was given only a few months to live. There are a few other long-term mesothelioma survivors as well who live their lives more privately than Mr. Kraus.
Mr. Kraus attributes his longevity to the use of alternative therapies such a vegetarian diet high in antioxidants and intravenous vitamin and ozone therapy. These therapies may have bolstered his immune system.
In a 1986 study that compared the immune systems of asbestos workers with patients who'd been diagnosed with mesothelioma, scientists found that mesothelioma patients had significantly fewer T-cells and T-cell helpers than the general population. They also suffered from a lack of NK (Natural Killer) cells, a lymphocyte that specifically targets tumor cells within the body.
If you or a family member has been exposed to asbestos in the workplace and have concerns about your health, see a doctor as soon as possible.