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mesothelioma chemotherapy

How are statistics useful in making a prognosis?

When doctors are in the process of making a mesothelioma prognosis, they carefully look into all factors that can potentially influence the patient’s disease and treatment. After this, they try to make a prediction of what might happen in the future. A prognosis is usually based on information that researchers have gathered over many years related to thousands of individuals diagnosed with cancer.

Whenever possible, the doctor will try to use statistics relevant to specific groups of people whose condition and situations may be most similar or comparable to an individual patient. Different types of statistics can be used to make a prognosis. Here are some of the most commonly used statistics:

  • Survival rate describes the percentage of individuals diagnosed with a particular type and stage of cancer who live for a specific time frame after the diagnosis. For instance, 60 out of every 100 individuals diagnosed with a specific type of cancer will survive for at least 5 years, whereas the other 40 individuals will not. Further categorization may be based on the cause of death because some deaths may occur due to unrelated factors. For instance, out of the 40 individuals mentioned above, 30 may die of cancer and the remaining 10 may die due to other factors.
  • The 5-year survival rate describes the percentage of patients who may still be living for 5 years after the cancer diagnosis was made. This would include all patients, irrespective of whether they have fewer or no symptoms or signs of cancer, have made a full recovery, or are receiving treatment. The 5-year survival rate is utilized as a standard way of evaluating prognosis and also as a means to compare the benefits of available treatment protocols. However, it does not imply that an individual can be alive for only 5 years after diagnosis or that the cancer does not have a cure.
  • Disease-free or recurrence-free survival rates describe the period of time a patient lives completely free of the disease, instead of until death.

Survival rates cannot be used to make predictions as to what would happen to an individual patient because they are defined on the basis of information gathered from large groups of people. Each patient is different, and treatment regimes and response to treatment vary from patient to patient.

The doctor may make a favorable prognosis if there is a likelihood that the disease will respond to treatment. Similarly, if the doctor feels that the disease will be difficult to control, it may lead to an unfavorable prognosis. However, it is important to understand that a prognosis is basically just a prediction. Moreover, doctors cannot say it with absolute certainty as to what would happen to an individual patient.

What is the prognosis in case the patient decides to forgo treatment?

Since no two patients have the same situation, it is difficult to answer this question. Prognostic statistics are often based on studies that compare new treatments with the most effective existing treatments, and not with “no treatment”. As a result, it is difficult for doctors to accurately make a prognosis for patients who may have decided to forgo treatment. However, as mentioned earlier, the doctor who may be most familiar with the specific situation of a patient is the right person to discuss the prognosis, after considering the patient’s individual characteristics that may influence the overall situation.

There are a variety of reasons as to why patients decide to forgo treatment. One of these may relate to the concerns people often have about the side effects of treatment. Patients need to discuss these issues with their doctor and cancer nurse. There are a number of medications available that can help prevent or control the side effects resulting from cancer treatments. The decision to forgo treatment may also come from the realization that the specific type of cancer has a poor prognosis, even when the best available treatment may be administered. In such cases, patients need to consider clinical trials (research studies). By enrolling for clinical trials, patients can have access to new drugs and treatment regimes that may be more effective in comparison to available standard treatment protocols.


This website is sponsored by Brad Cooper* of The Cooper, Hart, Leggiero, & Whitehead, PLLC. Cooper, Hart, Leggiero, & Whitehead is located in The Woodlands, Texas (Greater Houston Area) and can be reached toll free at 1-800-998-9729 for more information on mesothelioma. Brad Cooper is not a medical doctor. The information on these pages is for the education of mesothelioma patients and their families regarding potential medical and legal options. Patients are advised to consult with a medical doctor.

*  Licensed by the Supreme Court  of Texas.




The use of chemotherapy in patients with advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma: a clinical practice guideline.

Advances in the systemic therapy of malignant pleural mesothelioma

Kinase Inhibitors for Mesothelioma Treatment

journal abstracts

Active symptom control with or without chemotherapy in the treatment of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MS01): a multicentre randomised trial

The second wave in kinase cancer drugs

Cisplatin and vinorelbine first-line chemotherapy in non-resectable malignant pleural mesothelioma

Cytoreductive surgery and intraperitoneal chemotherapy for peritoneal mesothelioma.