For people who have Pleural Mesothelioma, life expectancy is related to and affected by the stage the cancer is at, according to any point in time. This type of cancer is the most common of Mesothelioma cancers, with about 70% of people showing symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma. Like other cancers, Pleural Mesothelioma activity is described by staging, an estimate of the point of development of this type of cancer. In general, there are four stages of development. Life expectancy is naturally greatest at the earliest stages of cancer growth.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma cancers are specifically named after the region of the body where they appear. All involve cancers that begin in the thin mesothelium tissues that encase certain organs and places like the chest wall. With Pleural Mesothelioma, the cancer is in tissues around the lung or chest wall. Other types of Mesothelioma cancers include Peritoneal (abdomen) and Pericardial (heart) Mesothelioma.

These cancers are primarily caused by inhalation or ingestion of asbestos mineral fibers. This can happen when the minerals are mined, when they are used to make products like tiles or insulation, or when they are at some point disturbed enough to allow fibers to disperse into the air. People who work in industry, auto manufacturing, building, remodeling or in automotive shops were most likely to be exposed to materials containing asbestos. Men are more likely than women to develop Mesothelioma cancers, because men were more likely to have had those industrial jobs.

Miners of asbestos were among those with highest exposure to inhalation of the tiny particles. The fibers also were found to be transported away from the exposure sites to other locations, where family members and others were then exposed to asbestos that was clinging to clothing or hair. Second hand exposure to asbestos fibers is just as serious and potentially life-threatening as direct exposure. Other factors play a part in generating Mesothelioma, including any inherited genetic predisposition.

Symptoms & Treatment

Once the asbestos fibers are introduced to the lungs, they work their way into the thin mesothelium tissues and cause irritation that can become cancerous. At that point, cancer cells may be transported through the blood stream to other organs in the body. There is a very long time between exposure and development of symptoms. This is unfortunate, because it allows the cancer to grow without detection and this limits life expectancy.

Once it is detected, treatment may begin. There are multiple therapies used for treating this type of cancer. Surgery is the best method for eliminating Pleural Mesothelioma, but that is usually most effective in the early stages, before the cancer cells could spread to other organs. Other symptoms include chest pain, difficulty breathing, coughing, lumps under the skin near the rib cage, and unexplained weight loss. With advancement of this disease, some people develop additional complications like fluid in the lungs or pain caused by pressure on nerves and the spinal cord.

Other treatments to curtail Pleural Mesothelioma include chemotherapy and radiation. These treatments may be used following surgery and separately to verify their success and to stop the spread of cancer cells. Other tests are used, including blood tests and biopsies to determine the state of this disease and if it has spread elsewhere.

Life Expectancy

People who have malignant Mesothelioma cancer are facing a tough battle for life. Their life expectancy averages around five years at best. Some people do manage the disease well and live many more years, perhaps up to twenty more, but others can only expect to live one or two years. The most difficult aspect of treating this type of cancer is that it takes so many decades after exposure to asbestos before symptoms develop and people seek medical advice and treatment begins.

Live expectancy for people afflicted with Pleural Mesothelioma is estimated according to four stages of cancer development. The highest expectation for longer lifetimes goes to those persons who have cancer that can be surgically removed, with no recurrence. This is most likely to happen at the very earliest stages of development. The later this cancer is discovered, and the more advanced it is, there will be a corresponding lower life expectancy.

Survival rates are based on information gathered from groups of people who already have this disease and who have been treated or already died from it. However, new treatments are being developed that may affect current cases, and current patients have a unique set of data that will affect their own prognosis. The following medial survival rates are just estimates:

     Stage     Median Survival

I               21 months

II             19 months

III            16 months

IV            12 months

Data from the National Cancer Institute indicates that the relative 5-year survival rate for Mesothelioma is only between 5% and 10%. Those who are diagnosed earliest tend to live the longest. Since this type of cancer has such a long period for development, from 30 to 50 years, those who finally develop symptoms and then seek treatment are older, another factor that contributes to a shorter life expectancy.

Living with Pleural Mesothelioma

Since this type of Mesothelioma cancer affects about 70% of all Mesothelioma patients, it also has received the most research. There have been many new treatments developed to manage Pleural Mesothelioma, with more new ones coming out of current clinical trials. As with all cancers, there will be an element of anxiety over possible recurrences, even following successful surgical removal of the cancer. After care is essential, to help control anxiety and to monitor the patient for any new problems, including recurrence of the cancer.

Living with Pleural Mesothelioma can be a challenge, but it is good to remember that new research may offer new treatments and drugs to meet that challenge. Working closely with your doctor is important, and they can also consult with specialists about new developments in treatment and control of this cancer. The costs not covered by insurance for cancer care can be significant. There are some options for obtaining financial assistance for treatment, diagnostic tests, and participation in clinical trials or other experimental treatment programs. Some financial aid may be available, including Mesothelioma trust funds, grants and other resources to help pay for getting after care for cancers caused by exposure to asbestos.