Making Sense of a Mesothelioma Prognosis

For victims of asbestos exposure, there is no greater consequence than a mesothelioma prognosis-which is almost unilaterally grave, even in the best of possible circumstances. Just what factors play into your individual prognosis depend on several things, including your health at the time you begin treatment as well as the stage, cell type and location of the cancer itself. If all of those factors line up just right, you may receive a more favorable diagnosis than most-but even in such rare “ideal” scenarios, mesothelioma is still considered universally terminal with only limited treatment success documented.

Factors Affecting Prognosis

There are basically two types of variable that affect a mesothelioma prognosis-those relating to the patient and those relating to the disease. On average, mesothelioma life expectancy is typically estimated between 4 and 18 months. Somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of victims do survive to or past the five-year mark, though these odds are not generally reflected in an initial prognosis.

Patient-Related Factors

Three things, individual to each patient, tend to be factored in when making a prognosis: age, gender and general health status.

On average, patients that are 55 years or younger at the time of diagnosis tend to respond better to treatment and may have a longer life expectancy overall.

Women also seem to generally respond more favorably than men to traditional treatment for mesothelioma, though the reasons for this are not entirely clear. It should also be noted that men are far more likely to be affected by mesothelioma, a fact attributed largely to the increased incidence of occupational exposure among working males.)

Finally, the patient’s state of health overall, at the time treatment commences, tends to be an influencing factor on his or her prognosis. The better shape one is in, including but not limited to his or her history of smoking, the better the chances that treatment measures will be successful in eliminating or slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Illness-Related Factors

Characteristics of the cancer itself tend to be most telling in the establishment of a mesothelioma prognosis. In particular, the location, stage and cell type of the illness are usually taken into account-not only in predicting the outcome of treatment but also in determining what types of treatment for which the patient is eligible to receive at all.

Those diagnosed in the earliest stage of the disease have the most hope for remission, as treatment is considered most effective before the cancer has metastasized, or spread. Those diagnosed in the later stages of the disease are often eligible only for palliative treatment-meaning that methods are intended to reduce pain and physical discomfort and/or improve the patient’s quality of life, rather than to eliminate cancer cells and produce a state of remission.

The location of the cancer is also taken into account. Though all types are considered terminal, pleural mesothelioma tends to be somewhat more responsive to treatment and appears to have a slightly better prognosis than the peritoneal and pericardial varieties.

Finally, the cell type of the cancer makes a difference in how a patient is expected to respond to treatment. Epithelial cells have shown to be more responsive to chemo and radiation therapy than either mixed cells (called biphasic) or sacromatoid cells, respectively.


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