Living with Mesothelioma

The cancerous disease mesothelioma can remain undetected and symptomless in a person for decades. Regrettably this means the disease is often diagnosed late, when it has progressed to a more dangerous stage, and treatment can become difficult. The disease is caused by coming into contact with asbestos, which unfortunately was not recognised as a dangerous material until the 1970’s, eventually become banned in 1999. Prevention of the disease is possible through conducting asbestos surveys of work areas and the responsible asbestos management of buildings and other spaces. It is best to call upon reliable asbestos consultants to carry out this task safely.

The early symptoms of mesothelioma are generally non-specific, for example they can sometimes resemble viral pneumonia. Pleural mesothelioma patients may experience shortness of breath, chest pain and/or persistent cough; but some patients show no symptoms at all. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can include pain or swelling in the abdomen due to a build-up of fluid, the patient may also experience nausea, weight loss, anemia or swelling of the feet.

Clear communication and openness between doctor and patient is vital when treating a disease as serious as mesothelioma. Treatment is determined by what stage of mesothelioma the patient is in, most staging systems take into account the size and location of the primary tumour, the number of tumours, lymph node involvement, cell type and metastasis (if the cancer has spread to another part of the body). Treatment options can include surgery, chemotherapy, and clinical trials as well; new approaches such as photodynamic therapy, immunotherapy, and gene therapy may be offered. Palliative care can be an option depending on the advance of the disease, the patient’s age, and any additional health problems. As this option treats the symptoms but not the disease, it is vital the patient thoroughly discusses the options with their doctor.

Can psychological treatment have a positive effect upon the patient while they are undergoing the treatment of physical symptoms? Studies have suggested that 25% to 50% of cancer patients are suffering from psychological conditions related to their diagnosis.

A recent study conducted by the American Cancer Society examined the potential of social-cognitive therapy in mesothelioma pain management. In the study 265 patients living with mesothelioma, who were experiencing at least moderate pain or pain related to impairment, were randomly assigned to receive either an education/coaching (TEC) program specifically designed for them or receive educationally-enhanced usual care (EUC). TEC is based on social-cognitive therapy, and is comprised of six components– assess, correct, teach, prepare, rehearse and portray. Both programs were provided to the patient for an estimated 30 minutes before they had their oncology visits, as an intervention treatment.

Researchers are determining outcomes related to anxiety, pain severity and impairment, patient-physician communication, self-efficacy for pain control, and well-being. If the outcome proves that pain management plays as big a role as researchers are anticipating, the treatment may be rolled out across the US.

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