The prognosis for someone diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma is often grim. However, making informed decisions about medical treatment and your overall health habits can improve your life expectancy and quality of life.
People often confuse the terms “prognosis” and “diagnosis.” A prognosis is the likely outcome of a disease — like a forecast of how the disease will affect a person. A diagnosis is the medical classification of which disease a person has. A pleural mesothelioma prognosis is usually not favorable, but it varies depending on the stage of the cancer and many other factors.
Some of these factors, such as the cancer’s stage, cell type, your age and gender, are beyond your control. However, you do have some control in modifying other factors to positively influence your prognosis. Many patients have lived well past their initial life expectancies by electing treatment, improving their overall health and following the advice of knowledgeable specialists.
Understanding Prognosis, Life Expectancy & Survival Rate
Medical professionals regularly use these three related terms to discuss prognosis. Although they are similar, they are not interchangeable.
A prognosis is a prediction made by a qualified physician of the likely result of your cancer. Doctors base your cancer prognosis on statistics gathered from others with your type of cancer and stage of disease. However, it is only an assessment. Many people have outlived their initial prognoses, and you might be able to improve yours, too, by discussing it with your doctor or our Patient Advocates.
Life expectancy is the estimated amount of time someone will live after a diagnosis. A median life expectancy means half of patients are expected to live longer and half are expected to live shorter.
Survival rate refers to the percentage of people who survive for a certain period of time after a diagnosis. These rates are usually measured in 1- and 5-year increments. For example, the 1-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is approximately 38 percent, meaning more than one-third of patients live one year or longer after their diagnosis.
There are certain factors in your prognosis you cannot change. These factors include your age and gender, specifics about your current blood characteristics, cancer cell type and stage.
Generally, the prognosis is better for younger patients. A younger human body and immune system can better handle the aggressive therapies used to treat cancer. Younger people also tend to have better overall health and physical fitness, which helps them recover from cancer treatment.
Statistics reveal the difference age makes: 43 percent of patients younger than 45 survive five years after diagnosis, compared to just 5.7 percent of patients age 65 or older.
Women with pleural mesothelioma typically have a better prognosis than men. Researchers suspect hormonal differences may play a role in women responding better to treatment.
A review of data from the National Cancer Institute shows the 5-year survival rate for women is almost three times higher than that for men.
Certain biomarkers found in your blood may impact your prognosis. Biomarkers such as COX-2, MIB-1, fibulin-3, white blood cells (WBC) and platelet counts have varying implications for prognosis, for example:
High levels of the protein COX-2 can indicate a longer life expectancy.
Low blood cell counts suggest the body is compromised by the cancer, which can negatively impact prognosis.
High levels of the biomarker mesothelin can signal that the cancer is growing.
These markers vary with each patient and could one day play a pivotal role in optimizing treatment plans for individuals.
Mesothelioma of the epithelial cell type carries the best prognosis because it responds better to treatment than sarcomatoid cells. Epithelioid cells stick together more closely, which means they do not spread as easily as sarcomatoid cells.
Biphasic cells are a combination of the two, and prognosis with this type depends on the ratio of cells present. A higher epithelial cell count improves prognosis.
Staging helps determine how far along a cancer is in its progression. In stages 1 and 2, the cancer is small and localized, while in stages 3 and 4, the cancer has grown and spread to other parts of the body.
Small, localized tumors are easier to extract with surgery and shrink with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which translates into a better prognosis.
Tumors that have spread are difficult to operate on, and bigger tumors don’t respond as well to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.