Palliative Care and Mesothelioma
Palliative care is a form of late-stage care for patients with serious illnesses. Patients suffering from mesothelioma often consider palliative care as the disease reaches its later stages.
Palliative care differs from hospice care in that patients can still receive aggressive treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Palliative treatment can alleviate pain, reduce symptoms and, if started early enough, extend a patient’s life expectancy.
Mesothelioma patients often suffer from significant pain, muscle weakness and difficulty breathing in the end stages of the disease. Palliative care can reduce these symptoms and improve quality of life for patients.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is available to anyone suffering from a serious illness or medical condition. Palliative care treatments may include surgery or chemotherapy. Palliative care is usually covered by Medicare, which makes it available to most elderly patients.
Unlike hospice care, it is not limited to those who have only a few months left to live. It also differs from hospice care in that patients can still receive treatments for their symptoms. On the other hand, hospice care typically only manages the pain that patients feel.
Palliative care can be particularly beneficial to mesothelioma patients because it can significantly reduce pain and improve quality of life. This can allow mesothelioma patients a level of freedom and autonomy they may not have had otherwise.
When to Choose Palliative Care
It can be difficult to know the right time to choose palliative care. However, there are some circumstances that may indicate a patient is ready for palliative care.
If you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma, you may want to consider palliative care if you have suffered multiple hospital or emergency room visits in a short period of time. If a family member has functioned as the primary caregiver but can no longer provide the kind of medical assistance needed, palliative care may also become an option.
It is important to recognize that patients can still continue to treat their disease while in palliative care. Patients can undergo surgery, have radiation treatments or undergo chemotherapy to improve their prognosis while still in palliative care.
Why Choose Palliative Care?
Palliative care is designed to maintain patients’ autonomy and freedom while they are being treated for mesothelioma. Palliative care also allows patients with late-stage mesothelioma to continue their treatment, which may include surgery or chemotherapy.
If you or a loved one is suffering from late-stage mesothelioma, palliative care can increase your quality of life and provide you with emotional and medical support. Research has shown that patients who begin palliative care early enough can also increase their life expectancy.
Who Can Benefit from Palliative Care?
Palliative care is best for patients who are suffering from a serious illness or condition but who still want to pursue medical treatment for their symptoms. For example, a mesothelioma patient who wants to continue chemotherapy could be a candidate for palliative care.
However, if the patient no longer wishes to treat their disease, or if they no longer respond to medical treatment, then hospice care may be a better option.
Differences Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care
Although palliative care and hospice care share some similarities, there are some significant differences.
Hospice care is traditionally suited for individuals suffering from terminal illnesses whom doctors believe only have a short time to live. Their life expectancy is often less than a year and could be as little as a few months.
Palliative care is available to anyone with a serious illness or condition regardless of their life expectancy.
The other critical difference is that hospice care only provides symptom relief, generally in the form of pain management. In palliative care, patients can continue to treat their illness with more aggressive methods, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy or even surgery.
How Palliative Care Can Benefit Mesothelioma Patients
Palliative care can be especially beneficial for mesothelioma patients because it can relieve symptoms, reduce pain and improve quality of life. Research has shown that patients with mesothelioma may live longer if palliative care is started relatively early after a diagnosis is made.
Some of the most significant mesothelioma symptoms include pain, muscle weakness and difficulty eating and breathing. Palliative care can ease these symptoms and improve overall health and quality of life throughout the process.
Palliative care also allows mesothelioma patients to maintain a level of freedom and autonomy while continuing to get the treatment they need to reduce pain.
Selecting the Right Care Facility
It is important to evaluate different palliative care facilities and providers to determine which option is best for you or your loved one.
Your local hospital or cancer center will have information about nearby palliative care facilities. Your doctor may also have suggestions or recommendations about palliative care providers. Additionally, there are national organizations such as the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization which offer online resources.
Each palliative care facility and provider have their own methods and strategies. Talk with a medical professional to consider if a particular facility is the right fit for your specific needs as a mesothelioma patient.
Is Palliative Care Right For You?
Palliative care is similar to hospice care, but with important differences.
Palliative treatment often involves active treatment options like surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. On the other hand, hospice care does not typically offer active treatments. Hospice care is primarily focused on pain management and increasing quality of life for mesothelioma patients.
Research has shown that mesothelioma patients who begin palliative care earlier in their treatment process can actually extend their life. Talk with a medical professional about your specific case of mesothelioma to determine whether palliative care is right for you.