Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that typically occurs due to exposure to asbestos. A mesothelioma prognosis depends on the stage of the disease and the age of the patient at the time of diagnosis. Other factors affecting prognosis include the general health of the patient and the microscopic make-up of the specific mesothelioma that is affecting the patient.
This type of cancer lies latent within the body during its developmental stages and is usually only discovered decades after the initial exposure, so pinpointing a source of exposure can be difficult. Often the patient has other health issues that hamper the diagnosis of mesothelioma. The symptoms of mesothelioma closely resemble other more common diseases, making a diagnosis challenging. As a result, most mesothelioma is diagnosed in later stages of the disease.
Of the four types of mesothelioma, pleural malignant mesothelioma is the most common, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pleural malignant mesothelioma affects the chest cavity and the tissue that encircles the lungs. This is also the only type of mesothelioma for which formal staging and prognosis information exists. Since mesothelioma is rare, more studies are needed in order to obtain statistically significant information on the other types of mesothelioma, which are peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma, and mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis.
The disease is diagnosed in four stages, and the mesothelioma prognosis gets worse as the disease progresses through each stage. Stage one is localized to one area of the lining of the chest. At stage one, the diseased portion may be operable, depending on its location in the chest cavity. With complete removal of the diseased area, the potential for recovery is increased; however, recurrence of the cancer is possible.
In stage two mesothelioma the disease has spread beyond the chest and may be affecting another organ such as the diaphragm or lung. With a progression to stage three, mesothelioma prognosis begins to decline rapidly. Stage three mesothelioma has spread to more than one organ and may have infected the lymph nodes. Metastacized mesothelioma often spreads to the brain, and in stage four, mesothelioma prognosis can be six months or less.
In general, mesothelioma prognosis is bleak. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma generally do not survive for more than a year. Patients whose cancer is discovered at an early stage are more likely to survive longer than average. If the cancer is operable, then the prognosis is more favorable; however, according to the American Cancer Society, just 10 percent of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma survive five years.