The sad truth is that mesothelioma is not curable. If found early, aggressive treatments including radiation, chemotherapy and surgery can both lengthen and improve the quality of life for the patient. Even later-stage mesothelioma can be treated aggressively. However, mesothelioma is hard to diagnose, as symptoms can be indicative of any number of things, including pneumonia. And because mesothelioma usually doesn’t develop until decades after exposure to asbestos, it often catches the patient by surprise.
When mesothelioma is finally diagnosed, it is typically in later stages, meaning some patients may choose to only undergo palliative care. But even in earlier stages, palliative care should be considered.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is a general term for medical treatment that aims to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life — not necessarily treat the underlying cause of the symptoms. In other words, palliative care will not attack cancerous cells.
It is certainly possible to undertake palliative care in addition to more aggressive forms of treatment that attempt to reduce or halt cancer growth. And palliative care itself can lengthen the life of the patient in addition to reducing pain and improving quality of life.
Palliative care options
While medication for pain relief is one option, it is by no means the only available method for reducing pain. Other palliative care options include:
- Physical pain management techniques, including massage, acupuncture, respiratory therapy and others.
- Cognitive/Behavioral therapy, including counseling, visualization techniques and relaxation methods such as breathing exercises, among others.
- Dietary changes undertaken with the advice of your medical provider and a dietitian. Do not make significant changes to your diet without consulting your doctor.
- Quitting smoking, if the patient is a smoker.
- Palliative surgery that drains fluid from the lungs.
Other options may exist for you depending on your circumstances and goals. This blog is just an overview of common palliative care options after a mesothelioma diagnosis, and we do not recommend or discourage anyone from any particular treatment.
Mesothelioma is a terrible disease. Fortunately, palliative care can help a patient enjoy time with loved ones, reduce pain and lengthen life.