Pain Management and Palliative Care for Mesothelioma Patients

Pain Management and Palliative Care for Mesothelioma Patients 

(Guest post by Faith Franz, researcher and writer for The Mesothelioma Center)

After attempting to control the growth of a tumor, pain management is one of the most important goals of many cancer treatments. This is especially true for patients with mesothelioma, which is a rare and aggressive cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.

Most mesothelioma patients experience some form of pain during the progression of their disease. As the tumors grow, they place an increasing amount of pressure on the surrounding organs (the chest, for pleural mesothelioma, the stomach and diaphragm, with peritoneal mesothelioma, or the heart, in the case of pericardial mesothelioma).

Mesothelioma patients may also develop fluid buildups – known as pleural effusions or peritoneal effusions – that can make breathing or physical exertion painful. In advanced cases, the pain may even make it difficult for patients to find a comfortable resting position.

While acute treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy can shrink the tumors – much of the care is palliative in nature, in that it is not curative.  Palliative therapies are designed to alleviate the patient’s symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Traditional Palliative Care

Mesothelioma patients have several options that are part of their palliative care. These include:

  • Pleurodesis or paracentesis – Surgeons insert a tube into the affected bodily cavity to drain out the fluid. In the case of pleural mesothelioma, they may also apply a chemical irritant such as talcum powder to close the space and prevent further effusions.
  • Oxygen therapy – Supplementary oxygen can help mesothelioma patients with heavily labored or painful breathing get enough oxygen into their bodies. Doctors may use oxygen therapy as an emergency medical intervention, or they may prescribe portable oxygen for everyday use.
  • Pain medications – Prescription or over-the-counter pain medications (such as acetaminophen, aspirin and opioid-class drugs) can help patients manage tumor-induced pain. They may also help with postoperative soreness and nerve pain caused by metastasis.

These methods can provide patients with a great deal of relief.

In addition to use of medications and more acute interventions, patients may integrate complementary methods as a part of the palliative care.

Complementary therapies as part of Palliative Care

Complementary therapies may include:

  • Therapeutic massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care
  • Medical marijuana
  • Tai chi/yoga

Some of these therapies can also help patients manage other symptoms caused by the mesothelioma symptoms as well as pain and difficulty breathing.

Yoga and massage are especially helpful for reducing anxiety, while acupuncture can also relieve shortness of breath. Certain aromatherapy oils can help soothe a mesothelioma-related cough. Additionally, nutritional therapy can help support patients.

To develop a symptom management plan for your specific situation, contact an oncologist – or a palliative care specialist – with your current concerns and treatment preferences.

Author bio: Faith Franz has spent nearly two years researching and writing for The Mesothelioma Center. As an advocate for alternative medicine, she encourages patients to explore all of the treatment options. 

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