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Palliative Care for Mesothelioma

Long associated with death and dying, palliative care medicine is emerging as a new specialty in cancer care. The goal is not to hasten death or discontinue potentially life-saving treatments, but to reduce the uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects associated with any cancer diagnosis and improve the patient’s overall quality of life.

Often palliative care is offered alongside conventional treatments. For mesothelioma patients, palliative care can offer some relief from the pain the disease brings. Caused by ongoing exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma is known to cause tumors and cancerous growths in the peritoneal, pericardial and pleural areas. The cancer can grow undetected for decades. Patients are frequently diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, when a cure is not possible. The patient advocates at the Mesothelioma Support Network can discuss all of your pain problems and the palliative care options available. Contact us now.

Hospice, Palliative Care and Mesothelioma

Many people think that hospice care and palliative care is the same thing. Experts say they are not. Hospice is provided to patients who are the end stages of their disease and are no longer receiving conventional cancer treatments. Palliative care is for anyone with a serious illness that causes pain, stress, nausea and anxiety – even patients who are just starting treatments.

For mesothelioma patients, there is a great need for palliative care. These patients have several causes of pain, including pain from the mesothelioma tumors pressing on bones, bodily organs and nerves, discomfort and anxiety from the cancer treatments themselves and pains from other causes, including muscle aches and headaches.

How Palliative Care Helps

The main goal of palliative care is to control pain. There are three main types of pain:

Acute pain – This is sudden, sharp pain that can serve as a warning of impending disease or a bodily threat. It can last for weeks for up to six months. It generally disappears when the cause of the pain has been treated or healed. But if unrelieved, acute pain can lead to chronic pain.

Chronic pain – This is an ongoing type of pain that leads to tense muscles, depleted energy, anxiety, anger and fear. This kind of pain can hinder a person’s ability to return to normal activities. Breakthrough pain – This is pain that comes on suddenly and quickly, especially in chronic pain patients who are taking pain-relieving medications.

Mesothelioma patients are often prescribed conventional treatments as palliative care, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, to reduce pain. The goal is to shrink the mesothelioma tumors to give a better quality of life. Physicians also use a range of medications to relieve pain, called pharmacological therapy. This includes over-the counter medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and opioids, like oxycodone and methadone.

Palliative Care Uses Besides Pain

What may be surprising to many patients is that there’s more to palliative care than pain relief. Palliative care addresses other issues that upend a patients’ life:

  • Dry Mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Skin Problems and Irritations
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
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