Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient is affected by numerous factors including:
- Latency Period – Unlike other cancers with symptoms that surface quickly, asbestos fibers that cause mesothelioma over time can lay dormant in the body for up to 50 years. This long period of latency often results in a late diagnosis. In many cases, the diagnosis is made when it has already reached late stages of development, making mesothelioma treatment difficult and sometimes ineffective. Mesothelioma patients diagnosed in later stages will typically receive palliative treatments rather than curative, which serve to make the patient more comfortable and increase their mesothelioma quality of life rather than cure the disease.
- Age of Diagnosis – Most reports indicate that the average age of a mesothelioma patient is 60. In fact, more than 75 percent of mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the United States occur in men age 55 or older. However, some researchers believe the average age is dropping due to the influx of cases from secondary exposure. When an older person develops mesothelioma cancer, treatment can be compromised due to the presence of other health-related problems. These might include heart disease, additional lung ailments, and high blood pressure. Advanced age and the presence of other diseases can significantly affect a patient's life span.
- Types of Mesothelioma – There are three major types of mesothelioma an individual can develop. The most common form is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. Other forms of the disease include peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma, which affect the lining of the abdomen and heart. Since pleural mesothelioma affects the most mesothelioma patients, more knowledge and research about this form of the cancer is present to utilize when detailing a treatment plan, often times making a plueral life expectancy much longer.
- Smoking – Smoking can greatly decrease the life span of an individual who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma should quit smoking immediately, as this could greatly increase a patient's mesothelioma quality of life.