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How do doctors determine survival rates for mesothelioma?

You probably worked around asbestos decades ago, but you just now found out that you have mesothelioma. This cancer, which is nearly 100 percent attributable to asbestos exposure, does not have a good track record for life expectancy. Over the years, treatment options have improved that may prolong your life, but unfortunately, this disease is fatal.

In order to make plans for the remainder of your life and for your family after you pass away, you may want some idea of how much time you have left. It may help to know how doctors determine survivability for this particular condition.

The general rules for calculating survival rates

In order to determine how much time you have, doctors look at groups who have suffered from mesothelioma in the past. However, it's not just about how long any given individual lived. A look at the following factors may help to give you a more accurate assessment:

  • Your overall health
  • Your age
  • Your treatments
  • Your response to those treatments

Many doctors talk about the "5-year rule" when it comes to survival rates. They compare the life expectancies of people who do not have a certain type of cancer with those who survived at least five years after diagnosis and treatment. When it comes to mesothelioma, only five to 10 percent make it to the 5-year mark. The younger you are, the better your chances are that you may fall within those percentages.

Estimates based on those with pleural mesothelioma

More than one type of this cancer exists, but the American Cancer Society gathered data for the one seen most often, which is pleural mesothelioma (in the lungs) from 1995 to 2009. They used the amount of time that it took approximately half of sufferers to pass away (the median survival rate). Since your survival largely depends on the stage at which you received your diagnosis, the following estimates apply:

  • 21 months at Stage I
  • 19 months at Stage II
  • 16 months at Stage III
  • 12 months at Stage IV

What it boils down to is how pervasive the cancer is in your body. More localized cancer may benefit from surgery and aggressive treatment, but once it has spread throughout the body, there is often not much that doctors can do.

Compensation for your condition

No matter what your prognosis is, you will still incur significant medical and other expenses related to your condition. You do have legal options for pursuing compensation even though your exposure occurred decades ago. It may help relieve some of your worry to discuss your situation with a Pennsylvania attorney who understands how the law applies to those who develop mesothelioma. Any compensation you receive could also help your family for many years in the unfortunate event of your passing.

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