One of the rarer and more aggressive forms of the disease, mesothelioma is a type of cancer found on the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Unlike other types of cancer, malignant mesothelioma has only one known cause – exposure to asbestos.
Although this material is no longer permitted in new buildings, many people still come in contact with it through their work.
Here, we’re going to take a closer look at the most important mesothelioma statistics that can help clarify the issue around this rare but still highly impactful disease. We’ll explore mesothelioma causes, prognosis, incidence, survival rates, and much more.
If you’re interested in learning more about this particular kind of cancer, then read on for more stats and facts.
How many cases of mesothelioma each year?
In the US alone, 3000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. Although the use of asbestos has diminished massively since its link to this form of cancer was discovered, this number is expected to hold steady for some years yet.
The number of mesothelioma cases per year is, in part, related to the time it takes for it to be diagnosed after exposure to asbestos. It must also take into account that there are likely those who die from the disease without a diagnosis.
The average patient with mesothelioma is first diagnosed with the condition as late as their early 70s. This means that according to retirement statistics, some retirement plans may not go according to schedule, unfortunately.
There are a range of factors for this, but the latency period of the condition is the main one. This represents the gap in time between someone’s exposure to asbestos and when the cancer is first diagnosed.
For pleural mesothelioma, the average latency period is between 30 and 60 years. For peritoneal mesothelioma, it is reduced to 20 to 40 years.
The mesothelioma mortality rate can differ based on a range of things, mesothelioma statistics reveal. For instance, a patient’s age at the time of diagnosis plays a role, as younger people who are diagnosed with the condition tend to live longer. As we will show, the average survival rate of mesothelioma also differs depending on which type of condition the patient has.
On average, however, the life expectancy of someone diagnosed with mesothelioma is shockingly low, and that the majority of people who get it do not live longer than two years.
(Source: Mesothelioma Diagnosis)
Is mesothelioma always fatal?
Given the fatal danger associated with the disease, many people are interested in learning what the mesothelioma survival rate is. However, the truth is that it varies depending on what type you have.
There are four types of mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma is when the cancer affects the lining of the abdomen, and it offers the best survival rates. 92% of people diagnosed live for 1 year, 74% for 3 years, 52% for 5 years, and 39% for 10 years.
(Source: National Institute of Health)
The other most common form of pleural mesothelioma is pleural. This is when the cancer is affecting the protective lining of the lungs. Unfortunately, the pleural mesothelioma prognosis is much worse than the peritoneal one.
There is an initial mesothelioma cancer survival rate of 73% for the first year. These mesothelioma survival rates plummet to 23% for 3 years, 12% for 5 years, and 4.7% for 10 years.
As mentioned, pleural mesothelioma is when the cancer affects the pleura (the tissue surrounding the lungs). Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 70-79% of all cases of the condition. As it also has a higher mesothelioma death rate, it accounts for the low average life expectancy when looking at overall asbestos related disease statistics.
By comparison, in 10-30% of cases, the cancer is in the peritoneum. The peritoneal mesothelioma survival rate is higher, however, so the rarer condition could make for a better prognosis.
While there are four different types of mesothelioma, we will largely be focusing on pleural and peritoneal with the following stats, simply because fewer than 2 in 100 cases involve the other two kinds.
For instance, there are only 200 documented cases of pericardial mesothelioma, which is when the cancer affects the walls of the heart.
Read on for more asbestos facts to learn about how much of a role exposure to that material has to play in such cases.
Because it’s not easy to figure out who has been exposed to asbestos in their lifetime and when, it can be difficult to factor how many people develop mesothelioma due to that exposure.
Does everyone exposed to asbestos get mesothelioma?
The short answer is – no.
The Mesothelioma Center asserts that 2% to 10% of all people who have been exposed to asbestos for prolonged periods of time will develop pleural mesothelioma. People across different demographics are affected differently since they are more likely to be in contact with asbestos, as the following mesothelioma incidence stats indicate.
As we will see in a moment, the incidence of mesothelioma is largely influenced by exposure to asbestos, which is often determined by occupation. Men are more likely to work jobs where they are in contact with the material. As a result, men comprise 80% of all cases, as indicated by the SEER Cancer Statistics Review.
Where is mesothelioma most common?
Data from the CDC has shown that mesothelioma is present in rates of 0.58 to 1.65 per 100,000 people. The states at the higher end of those rates include Alaska, New Jersey, Washington, Maine, and West Virginia, each in the upper tenth percentile. Looking at the mesothelioma statistics by state, this is most likely due to the larger presence of factories and plants that involved heavy use of asbestos.
(Source: Science Direct)
It’s important to look at mesothelioma costs and compensation to understand the impact the condition can have on people, not just the chances of getting mesothelioma or the mesothelioma death statistics.
According to one cost-effectiveness study, the routine first-line mesothelioma chemotherapy treatment can cost more than $41,000 on average. However, chemotherapy is not the only treatment for cancer, so other treatments must be factored in as well.
For patients with Medicare, for instance, the median cost of a course of radiation therapy is $9000. Meanwhile, surgery to treat pleural mesothelioma can cost around $40,000.
(Source: American Cancer Society)
For those with health insurance, many of the costs above may be covered by their health insurance provider. However, even in this case, the average annual cost of copays, coinsurance, deductible, and insurance premiums can be as high as $10,000 on average, when it comes to treating lung cancer.
This stat does not specifically focus on mesothelioma, however, which can be even more expensive. What’s more, it’s important to consider the mesothelioma patients who do not have adequate healthcare coverage and could face major debt due to the costs of their treatments.
(Source: Lexis Legal News)
There is no guarantee that a mesothelioma trial claim will go to trial. However, in cases where that has happened and a jury has determined the defendant to be guilty, the average settlement is around $2.4 million. In the cases where the matter is settled out of court, the average settlement is considerably lower, between $1 million to $1.4 million.
There are different factors that can affect a claim and how much money can be expected from either a settlement or an award, of course. So, not everyone who reaches a settlement during a mesothelioma case should expect the kind of figure mentioned above.
(Source: Mesothelioma Diagnosis)
Since exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, it’s important to look at the asbestos statistics to see why we continue to see a consistent mesothelioma incidence rate.
Now, the US has a long history of using asbestos. Despite the fact that researchers had published studies about the health risks of the material in as far back as the 1920s, over 803,000 tons of the material was imported into the country as late as 1973.
There’s good news, though:
Asbestos use is nowhere near as common as it used to be. 340 pounds of the material were imported in 2016, while over 25.6 million pounds were disposed of in 2015 alone. To cap it off, the last asbestos mine in the US was closed in 2002.
(Source: Pleural Mesothelioma Center)
One of the reasons why asbestos death statistics are so high compared with other cancers is due to how often the cancer is found in a late stage. As we mentioned, mesothelioma has a very long latency period, in part due to the fact that many people were kept in the dark about the dangers of the condition for decades.
To make matters worse, many of the most characteristic symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, such as difficulty breathing, chest-wall pain, and fever, do not occur until the cancer is in its advanced stages. As a result, over half of patients are diagnosed during the later stages of mesothelioma. In fact, a massive 77% of patients are diagnosed too late to qualify for surgical treatments, which diminishes their chances of surviving the diagnosis.
(Source: Pleural Mesothelioma Center)
Despite the fact that asbestos use has greatly decreased in the US over the past three decades, there are still people who are at great risk of exposure. Asbestos use and production reached an all-time high between the 1930s and the 1960s. It gradually decreased from then on until it was finally discontinued in the 1990s.
However, US Navy Veterans, oil refinery workers, shipbuilders, automobile mechanics, carpenters, construction workers, steelworks, and railroad workers are still at greater risk of developing the disease than anyone else. So, people who work or have worked in those industries should arrange a doctor’s appointment to make sure they are free of the disease.
Despite the fact that asbestos use has diminished dramatically in the US over the past few decades, we will be dealing with the effects of mesothelioma for decades to come. The stats suggest that we have already reached peak asbestos cancer rates. But there are still workers coming in contact with asbestos today, so it’s uncertain when we will finally be free from it.
As the stats above show, mesothelioma is a rare cancer, but one that is extremely aggressive. Its danger is only compounded by the fact that is rarely diagnosed during the early stages. In most cases, people are diagnosed with it when they are no longer able to choose more effective surgical options.
Hopefully, the mesothelioma diagnosis statistics and lifespan stats above highlight the ongoing seriousness of this disease. Even though asbestos is no longer used in the workplace, we all need to be aware of how widespread this type of cancer is and what its symptoms and the mesothelioma survival rates are.