Being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer doesn’t just impact the person afflicted by the condition, it has an impact on everyone in their life. If you’re a family member or close friend of someone with mesothelioma cancer, you’ll be happy to know that there is a lot you can do to care for and support them during this time. This will require special attention to easing mesothelioma cancer symptoms and treatment side effects, and an emphasis on lung health.
What Is Mesothelioma Cancer?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that most often forms in the pleura, which is the outer lining of the lungs. This is known as pleural mesothelioma. Although uncommon, the cancer can also affect tissue in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), the heart, and other organs.
Mesothelioma should not be confused with lung cancer. According to the American Lung Association, 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure, whereas lung cancer is the result of smoking in 90 percent of cases. Mesothelioma is a very serious disease, and although there isn’t an effective treatment for it, palliative or supportive care can still be used to ease or control debilitating symptoms. It’s important to know the severity of the condition before helping your loved one.
How You Can Help
Create a Support Group
Although you can certainly try to take care of a mesothelioma patient by yourself, gathering a support group is much more effective and helps show your loved one that people are thinking of them. A great place to start would be with extended family, close friends, or neighbors who know them well and who want to put time into caring for them. Before getting started, you should educate everyone in the support group about the unique symptoms of mesothelioma and what will be required of them. Below are some of the common symptoms of mesothelioma:
- A cough
- Pain in the lower back or side of the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
Peritoneal mesothelioma, affecting the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum), can result in the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling or numbness in the abdomen
Aside from the symptoms of the condition itself, there are side effects associated with mesothelioma chemotherapy that you should be aware of.
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Sleep disorders
- Dry mouth
- And more
Since mesothelioma spreads through four different stages, it will be helpful for you and your support group to track this in order to better predict the symptoms. It may be helpful to create a calendar which will help everyone coordinate their work and ensure that the patient gets to appointments on time.
Focus On Lung Care
Because pleural mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, you should primarily focus on pulmonary care. As a patient progresses through the stages of mesothelioma, pulmonary symptoms will most likely worsen, resulting in heavy coughing, difficulty breathing, and pain while breathing. Certain medications can help to ease the symptoms by opening airways and pain medication can reduce discomfort. If you’re interested in more ways to improve lung function, ask your oncologist for a referral to a pulmonary therapist.
Consider All Your Treatment Options
Although chemotherapy is the most common form of treatment for mesothelioma, radiation therapy and surgery are often options available to you. It’s important that you stay by your loved one’s side in making these decisions. Although the final decision will be up to them, it’s always helpful to have someone there to ease the burden of these difficult decisions.
Another treatment option to consider is participating in a clinical trial. These trials will afford patients access to new and innovative treatment options. For mesothelioma, there are a number of immunotherapy drugs being tested which control and shrink tumors. These may help to extend life expectancy and ease symptoms. What’s more, clinical trials are oftentimes federally or privately funded meaning there’s no cost to you. If you’re interested in clinical trials, the National Cancer Institute is a great resource for more information and treatment locations.
Keep Your Oncologist Informed
One of the most effective ways to manage and treat symptoms is to simply keep your oncologist and any other practitioners informed. In almost all cases, it’s better to deal with negative side effects sooner rather than later. Your oncologist will be aware of these side effects and help you make a plan for mitigating them.
Although chemotherapy often results in nausea and fatigue, there are a number of highly effective medicines to reduce nausea and switching to a diet high in protein may help to aid in recovery and regulate energy levels throughout the day. Radiation therapy is known to cause skin irritation but can be alleviated with topical treatments that your doctor will recommend.
Don’t Forget Mental Health
Aside from the physical side effects of mesothelioma and mesothelioma treatment, you shouldn’t forget about the impact of the disease on mental health. It’s natural to be overwhelmed with fear and sadness when diagnosed with cancer. However, the mental healing process won’t happen overnight. Start making as much time as possible to spend with your loved one and ensure that all their emotional needs are met. A thoughtful gift or surprise can go a long way in improving their mood and keeping things positive.
Cancer support groups are recommended for most people going through chemotherapy. In these groups, both patients and their family members are able to meet with people who are in a similar situation and tell their stories. Most people find that these groups help them feel supported and help to normalize the experience when they need it the most. It’s also a great way to make lasting friendships.
SPEAK WITH OUR MESOTHELIOMA ATTORNEYS
A mesothelioma diagnosis can be devastating for the patient, their family, and their friends. But the best way to work through this difficult time is to spend time with the individual and give them as much love and support as possible. At Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, our mesothelioma attorneys represent individuals seeking the legal compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering. We understand that you and your family are dealing with a lot, and the last thing you want are legal problems to deal with.