A recent review of mesothelioma patient trends over the decades reveals that the disease is being diagnosed later in life, that overall survival is improving and that significantly more patients are women.

A Canadian research team announced these discoveries as part of a retrospective review of trends in pleural mesothelioma care since 1991. They disclosed their findings March 26 in the journal Clinical Lung Cancer.

The team — which included researchers from Ottawa Hospital, its associated cancer center and Montfort Hospital at the University of Ottawa — poured over 29 years’ worth of patient records involving 337 patients to identify the trends.

More Female Patients

One of their more surprising finds was that the percentage of women diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma jumped nearly 9 percent over the decades. From 1991 to 1999, women made up an average of 11.6 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses. But from 2010 to 2019, that average had ballooned up to 20.5 percent of diagnoses.

The report did not include any theories as to why more women are now mesothelioma patients.

Another curious finding is that modern patients are being diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma much later in life than in previous decades. The report noted that a patient’s median age for a mesothelioma diagnosis was 65.8 from 1991 to 1999. That number shot up to 75 between 2010 and 2019, an increase of more than nine years.

As before, the researchers made no attempt to explain this trend.

Improved Overall Survival

The only conclusion that the team felt comfortable making concerned the report’s least-surprising find: that patients’ overall survival time has increased over the years.

The team attributed the increase in overall survival to improved mesothelioma treatment options, specifically citing the surgical technique extrapleural pneumonectomy, chemotherapy cocktails based on pemetrexed (which goes by the brand name Alimta) and the use of implanted pleural catheters in patients with breathing troubles. All three were associated with improved overall survival in patients, the team noted.

Unfortunately, the increase wasn’t as pronounced as the others disclosed in the report. Overall survival time averaged nine months between 1991 and 1999, 9.3 months from 2000-2009 and 10.1 months of median survival between 2010 and 2019.

The researchers were measured in their conclusions regarding overall survival, noting that the “prognosis remains guarded” for mesothelioma patients “despite the small incremental improvements in survival shown” by those three treatment options. “Better modalities of management are needed,” they concluded.

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