Mesothelioma is a debilitating disease, but sometimes the mental effects can be harder to cope with than the physical. Receiving a cancer diagnosis of any kind is incredibly difficult for both the patient and their family, but dealing with the diagnosis is even harder and can cause mental distress in mesothelioma patients.
The nature of contracting mesothelioma—from unknown exposure to toxic asbestos—makes the diagnosis that much more distressing. Many people who were exposed at work feel angry, anxious and depressed. The psychological aspect of mesothelioma is something that the medical community is beginning to shed light on so that patients can improve their quality of life and not suffer in silence.
Workplace Asbestos Exposure and Psychological Health
An independent mesothelioma group recently examined how asbestos exposure and mental health issues are connected in the construction industry—a workplace commonly affected by asbestos exposure. Many construction workers came into contact with asbestos while at work and were unknowingly put at risk day after day.
The naturally occurring substance could be found in all manner of construction environments, and when inhaled it can cause mesothelioma. The disease can sometimes take up to 50 years to develop. When a patient is diagnosed, it’s often in the later disease stages, making it all the more difficult to cope with.
According to The British Medical Journal (BMJ), up to 10% of cancer patients experience anxiety and up to 20% experience depression. Contracting a disease as a result of asbestos exposure, combined with employer negligence, can no doubt lead to psychological issues.
First 3 Months After Diagnosis Are the Hardest
The mental distress in mesothelioma patients is highest during the first 3 months after diagnosis. The patient goes through psychological turmoil as the shock of the diagnosis sinks in. They may experience increased depression and anxiety as well as anger relating to the causative factors of the disease—contracting it through workplace exposure and negligence. They may also feel that the illness is entirely out of their control and they fear the deterioration process.
On top of that, there are the physical symptoms to live with, and the potential issue of having to file a lawsuit against an employer or product manufacturer. It’s a lot to cope with, in any situation, so it’s understandable why patients require more emotional assistance than they’re currently receiving.
Mesothelioma and Mental Health Awareness
Being diagnosed with mesothelioma is bound to be frightening, shocking and sad for both the patient and their family. But the added issue of mental distress in mesothelioma patients is on the rise.
According to an article by Dr. Julian J. Dooley in the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, lung-related cancers are more likely to produce higher levels of psychological distress than any other cancer form. He also said that, in a study of 49 men, all patients reported significant levels of traumatic stress symptoms post-diagnosis, which suggests that more needs to be done to help service these patients and make them feel more comfortable with their prognosis.
Other studies have taken a look at how the psychological distress of mesothelioma patients is related to physical, emotional and social functioning issues. Twelve papers cite that the risk of developing asbestos-related diseases among asbestos-exposed subjects is associated with high levels of mental health difficulties.
Emotional Support Is Available
It seems as though patients’ emotional needs are not currently being serviced appropriately, and that there is a lack of information provided about specialist palliative and supportive care systems.
As with any severe diagnosis, a patient is bound to feel alone in their battle, but there are systems in place to support patients. There are many support groups around whose members welcome the opportunity to meet people in the same or similar situations to themselves. Friends and family can, of course, also help, but there’s nothing like meeting someone who knows precisely how you’re feeling and what you’re going through.
Counseling is another excellent option for mesothelioma patients. This can be conducted through one-on-one sessions, or with families present. Counseling can be arranged by a doctor to allow the patient to speak openly and honestly about how they’re dealing with their diagnosis, and how to learn coping strategies that will help throughout the day-to-day.
Knowledge is power, and it pays to read all the literature provided and ask further questions. The doctor is there to make sure that the patient’s needs are being met, and there is no harm in asking for additional information.
If you’re facing a mesothelioma diagnosis and require support resources, please contact our team now. Call us at (866) 608-8933 or request a FREE Mesothelioma Justice Guide to better understand your next steps after a mesothelioma diagnosis.