Mesothelioma and Palliative Care
Mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer that is also very deadly. This type of cancer affects the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. The lining is known as the mesothelial lining. Almost all mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. This is one of the reasons that the disease is so rare. The use of asbestos has been controlled since the mid 1970s, so exposure these days is rare. It was used quite frequently in shipyards, oil refineries, and other manufacturing plants for insulation in the ’40s, ’50s, 60s, and ’70s.
Mesothelioma is very difficult to diagnose, partly because the symptoms resemble those of many other conditions, but mostly because the symptoms can take 20 to 50 years to appear. Generally, once mesothelioma is diagnosed, the patient may have only 18 months to 2 years to live.
There are treatments for mesothelioma similar to those for any other form cancer. The use of radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy are common treatments for killing malignant cells. Many doctors after consulting with their patients opt for “multi-modality” treatments. This means that they use a combination of these treatments and may even use all three. Ultimately, there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, but many cancer hospitals around the country do research in this area and use clinical trial to help that research in new therapies and treatments get directly to needy patients.
Often when it becomes apparent that treatments aren’t helping a patient, palliative care becomes the next option. Palliative care concentrates on reducing the pain and other symptoms. Its goal is to help the patient be as comfortable as possible in the time he or she has left and to provide support to the family.
Asking for palliative care is the best way the patient can help him or her self. The symptoms that can be managed to some degree through the use of palliative care are:
· Pain· Trouble breathing· Fatigue· Dry Mouth· No appetite· Depression· Skin issues· Stomach problems
Most of these issues are handled through standard medical techniques. The problem that is probably the most prevalent and difficult to deal with is depression, often brought on by the pain and by difficulty facing the illness. Counseling can be provided for the mesothelioma patient and these issues can be controlled with antidepressant medications, pain management, and stress management, as well as the counseling sessions.