Wednesday, May 8th, 2019.
Even though palliative care is only for pain management and symptoms of an illness and not curative, it’s still an important part of the treatment regimen for those suffering from any illness, especially mesothelioma. Pain associated with mesothelioma increases as the disease increases with severity. The most common pain experienced chest pain, which are often the first signs of the illness.
As the cancerous tumors grow, they impact vital organs making it difficult to breathe, or even digest food. Many studies have explored the pathophysiology of pain to have a better understanding on how to achieve maximum control over pain.
Managing pain is more than just managing overall physical comfort because pain can affect mental health as well. If left untreated, pain can lead to a lack of concentration, anxiety and depression, and even disturb sleep cycles. It can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude with any cancer diagnosis, and feelings of despair can be greatly exasperated if the pain is unbearable or out of control. Palliative treatment plans for mesothelioma patients are often done with medication, though radiation and surgical techniques many be used in more severe cases.
Minor pain can be curbed with ibuprofen or acetaminophen and possibly codeine if the pain is a bit worse. Severe pain is typically prescribed opioids such as morphine, though there are concerns about the addictive nature of opioids after just a few uses. Doctors should prescribe accordingly. In some instances, medical marijuana has been proven to show palliative benefits; however, it may not be available in every state.
Radiation therapy does have some curative benefits for mesothelioma patients because it causes tumor shrinkage, but typically radiotherapy is used for palliative care, as the smaller tumors lessen the symptoms.
Palliative care may not always have the have the desired results so in many cases, patients are given alternative therapies such as psychological techniques such as relaxation, breathing techniques, massages, or even acupuncture to help cope with the pain from mesothelioma. Pain management for mesothelioma is multifaceted because the tumors infiltrate multiple areas; bone and surrounding soft tissue and different nerves are all affected and trigger different types of pain. Even though scientists and researchers have made great progress in treating mesothelioma, the overall prognosis remains poor as there is no cure. Focusing on pain management and alleviating symptoms aims to have the patient and their family to be able to deal with the diagnosis both physically and emotionally.
J. Saunders, “Pain management in patients with malignant mesothelioma: challenges and solutions,” Lung Cancer (Auckland) (April 2, 2019). [Link]
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