Palliative care for mesothelioma can help patients and their caregivers improve quality of life. Palliative care relieves or reduces symptoms, which helps mesothelioma patients live with less pain. Additionally, palliative care providers are trained to address spiritual and emotional needs, such as anxiety or depression. Some research suggests palliative care for mesothelioma can help patients live longer, especially if it is started early in the diagnosis. Learn more about palliative care for mesothelioma.
What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care — also known as supportive care or comfort care — is designed to look at how a cancer diagnosis is affecting the patient as a whole. A goal of palliative treatment is to make sure all care needs are being addressed, including those of caregivers.
According to the American Cancer Society, palliative care is often recommended for cancer patients. While it doesn’t treat cancer itself, a key goal is to treat or prevent symptoms and side effects.
Palliative care for mesothelioma may help with:
- Minimizing pain
- Reducing stress
- Relieving symptoms
Palliative care for mesothelioma is a coordinated effort between patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals.
Medical practitioners who provide palliative care often have specific certifications to do so. The palliative care team works closely with the oncology (cancer care) team to help patients live with as little physical and emotional pain as possible.
How Can Palliative Care Help Mesothelioma Patients?
Particularly in the later stages of the disease, mesothelioma can cause a lot of pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.
Palliative care uses medications and other treatments to ease:
- Appetite loss
- Feeling weak or out of breath
Because a mesothelioma diagnosis often catches families off guard, it can also cause devastating emotional suffering. Palliative care includes helping mesothelioma patients and their families through the psychological effects of dealing with a terminal illness.
When Should Mesothelioma Patients Get Palliative Care?
Research suggests that palliative care for mesothelioma can improve quality of life at all stages, not just in the final ones.
Since it is designed to reduce pain and improve life quality, palliative care can help mesothelioma patients live with a level of freedom they may not have otherwise had.
Palliative care may be used more often if the patient has frequent emergency room or hospital visits but cannot receive life-extending treatments. Another situation when it may be a big help is if a caregiver can no longer provide adequate medical care.
Additionally, palliative care is considered supportive therapy. Therefore, it can benefit patients who are currently undergoing life-extending mesothelioma treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.
What Types of Mesothelioma Palliative Care Are Available?
Palliative care teams often include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, social workers, and occupational or physical therapists. This means that the types of mesothelioma palliative care available are extensive.
Issues that are addressed in palliative care include:
- Caregiver needs
- Emotional needs and coping skills
- Physical needs, such as pain management
- Practical needs, such as financial, legal, or insurance matters
- Spiritual needs
Doctors may also use scaled-down versions of life-extending mesothelioma treatments as palliative care. For example, a minor surgery or a low dose of chemotherapy might help keep cancer in check. Radiation therapy might ease chest pain or breathing tube blockages.
Other palliative procedures that may be performed aim to address fluid buildup, which is common and can cause severe discomfort. These include removing the fluid, sealing the lung lining shut (pleurodesis), or placing a shunt or catheter so the patient can drain fluid that keeps building up. Learn about these treatments below.
Patients with mesothelioma may have difficulty breathing because fluid can build up in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart due to the cancer. Procedures such as thoracentesis, paracentesis, and pericardiocentesis can be performed to remove the built-up fluid.
Pleurodesis is another procedure to address fluid buildup within the lining of the lungs. It’s used on patients with pleural mesothelioma and can be done during a thoracoscopy.
In the procedure, a hollow tube is inserted into the chest wall to drain fluid. A mixture of talc, antibiotics, and chemotherapy is then put into the tube. The mixture is designed to irritate the lungs so they stick to the chest wall, sealing the lung lining (pleura) and preventing fluid buildup.
Shunts are long and thin tubes with a small pump in them. They are devices that allow fluids to move from one part of the body to another. For example, fluid building up in the chest could be pushed into the abdomen, where the body is more likely to absorb it.
A catheter is a thin and flexible tube that is put into the chest for pleural mesothelioma or in the abdomen for peritoneal mesothelioma. It is another procedure that is sometimes performed to fight fluid buildup.
Catheter placement can be done either in the hospital or the doctor’s office. Once the catheter is in place, the patient can drain the fluid buildup in the comfort of their own home.
How to Find Mesothelioma Palliative Care
Finding mesothelioma palliative care is often done with the help of your doctor or oncologist (cancer specialist). Even if it is not offered, they can usually refer you to a mesothelioma palliative care team.
Other organizations that may help find palliative care include:
- American Cancer Society
- Center to Advance Palliative Care
- Get Palliative Care
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
If you still have questions about finding mesothelioma palliative care, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our mesothelioma patient advocates are trained to answer any questions you have about mesothelioma.