Malignant Mesothelioma Prognosis: Understanding the Outlook


Welcome to our comprehensive guide on malignant mesothelioma prognosis. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the thin layer of tissue that covers most of the internal organs, known as the mesothelium. The primary cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, a toxic mineral that was widely used in construction, manufacturing, and other industries until the late 1970s.

While malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, there are many factors that contribute to determining a patient’s prognosis. In this article, we will explore the various prognostic factors associated with mesothelioma, including cell type, stage, location, and treatment options.

Whether you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or you are simply interested in learning more about this rare cancer, we hope that this guide will provide you with the knowledge and resources you need to make informed decisions about your health.

What is Malignant Mesothelioma?

Before we dive into the prognosis of mesothelioma, let’s first define what this cancer is and how it develops. Mesothelioma originates in the mesothelial cells, which line the lungs, abdomen, and other organs. When these cells are exposed to asbestos fibers, they can become damaged and mutate, leading to the development of mesothelioma tumors.

There are three primary types of mesothelioma:

Type Location Prognosis
Pleural mesothelioma Lungs Poor
Peritoneal mesothelioma Abdomen Fair
Pericardial mesothelioma Heart Poor

Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs, is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for approximately 75% of cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdomen, is the second most common type. Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the heart, is extremely rare.

Mesothelioma Prognosis Factors

There are several factors that doctors consider when determining a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis. These factors include the type of mesothelioma, the stage of the cancer, the location of the tumors, and the patient’s overall health and age.

Mesothelioma Cell Type

The cell type of mesothelioma is one of the most important factors in determining prognosis. Mesothelioma can be classified into three main cell types:

Cell Type Description Prognosis
Epithelioid Most common cell type; responds better to treatment Best
Sarcomatoid Aggressive cell type; less responsive to treatment Worst
Biphasic Combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells Intermediate

Epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common cell type, accounting for approximately 70% of cases. This cell type tends to respond better to treatment and has a better prognosis than sarcomatoid mesothelioma, which is more aggressive and less responsive to treatment. Biphasic mesothelioma, which contains a combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells, has an intermediate prognosis.

Mesothelioma Stage

The stage of mesothelioma is another key factor in determining prognosis. Mesothelioma is typically staged using the TNM system, which considers the tumor size, lymph node involvement, and metastasis (spread) of the cancer.

There are four stages of mesothelioma:

Stage Description Prognosis
Stage I Cancer is localized to one area Best
Stage II Cancer has spread to nearby tissues Intermediate
Stage III Cancer has spread to lymph nodes Poor
Stage IV Cancer has spread to distant organs Worst

The earlier the stage of the cancer, the better the prognosis. Patients with Stage I or II mesothelioma have a better chance of survival than those with Stage III or IV mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Location

The location of mesothelioma is another important factor in determining prognosis. Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs, tends to have a worse prognosis than peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdomen. This is because pleural mesothelioma is more difficult to treat due to its proximity to the lungs and the risk of lung damage during treatment. Peritoneal mesothelioma can be treated with a surgery called cytoreduction with heated intraoperative chemotherapy (HIPEC), which has been shown to improve survival rates in some patients.

Mesothelioma Treatment

The type of treatment that a patient receives for mesothelioma can also impact their prognosis. The main treatments for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used.

Surgery is typically the first line of treatment for mesothelioma, as it can help to remove the cancerous tumors and improve the patient’s prognosis. However, not all patients are candidates for surgery, and the type of surgery that is performed depends on the location and stage of the cancer.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often used in combination with surgery, or as stand-alone treatments for patients who are not eligible for surgery. These treatments can help to shrink the tumors and slow the progression of the cancer.

Malignant Mesothelioma Prognosis Table

Prognostic Factor Description Prognosis
Cell Type Epithelioid, sarcomatoid, or biphasic Best to worst
Stage I, II, III, or IV Best to worst
Location Pleural or peritoneal Fair to poor
Treatment Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or combination Varies

Malignant Mesothelioma Prognosis FAQs

Q1: What is the survival rate for mesothelioma?

A: The survival rate for mesothelioma varies depending on several factors, including the stage of the cancer, the location of the tumors, and the patient’s overall health. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for mesothelioma is approximately 10%.

Q2: Can mesothelioma be cured?

A: While there is no cure for mesothelioma, there are treatments available that can help to extend the patient’s life and improve their quality of life. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are all used to treat mesothelioma, and new treatments are being developed all the time.

Q3: Is mesothelioma hereditary?

A: Mesothelioma is not typically hereditary, but there is evidence to suggest that certain genetic factors may increase a person’s risk of developing the cancer after exposure to asbestos.

Q4: How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

A: Mesothelioma is typically diagnosed through a combination of imaging tests (such as X-rays and CT scans) and biopsies (taking a sample of tissue for examination).

Q5: Can mesothelioma be prevented?

A: The primary way to prevent mesothelioma is to avoid exposure to asbestos. This can be done by taking precautions in the workplace (such as using protective gear), and by avoiding materials that contain asbestos (such as older buildings and insulation).

Q6: What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

A: The symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, fever, fatigue, and weight loss.

Q7: How long does it take for mesothelioma to develop?

A: Mesothelioma can take anywhere from 10 to 50 years to develop after exposure to asbestos. This is why many people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are older, as they were likely exposed to asbestos earlier in their lives.

Q8: What should I do if I have been exposed to asbestos?

A: If you have been exposed to asbestos, it is important to speak with your doctor and get regular check-ups to monitor for signs of mesothelioma. You should also notify your employer if you believe you have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

Q9: Where can I find more information about mesothelioma?

A: There are many resources available for people who want to learn more about mesothelioma, including support groups, advocacy organizations, and cancer centers. The American Cancer Society, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute are all good places to start.

Q10: What are some common mesothelioma treatment side effects?

A: Common side effects of mesothelioma treatment include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, and decreased appetite. Your doctor can help manage these side effects with medication and other techniques.

Q11: Is mesothelioma more common in men or women?

A: Mesothelioma is more common in men than women, as men are more likely to be exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

Q12: Can mesothelioma be detected early?

A: Mesothelioma is often difficult to detect in its early stages, as symptoms may not appear until the cancer has progressed. Regular check-ups and screenings may help to detect mesothelioma earlier, particularly in people who have been exposed to asbestos.

Q13: What should I do if I have been diagnosed with mesothelioma?

A: If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to work closely with your medical team to determine the best course of treatment. You may also want to seek emotional support from friends, family members, or a support group.


In conclusion, malignant mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that can be challenging to treat. However, there are many factors that contribute to determining a patient’s prognosis, and new treatments are being developed all the time. By understanding the factors that impact prognosis, patients and their families can make informed decisions about their health and seek out the best possible care.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we encourage you to speak with your doctor and explore your treatment options. With the right care and support, there is hope for a brighter future.


The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition.