Palliative care is a topic near and dear to my heart for my patients. It provides several options to help cancer patients, especially patients diagnosed with mesothelioma as they focus on maintaining their quality of life.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is an approach to medical care for people with serious diseases, such as mesothelioma, that focuses on providing patients with relief from symptoms, pain and stress. While palliative care can be administered at any time after diagnosis, it is sometimes provided as part of hospice care. The goal of palliative care is usually to increase quality of life for both the patient and their family members.
Types of Palliative Care for Mesothelioma Patients
There are three main types of palliative care for mesothelioma patients: chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. All of these treatments are meant to make the patient more comfortable and give them the ability to function on a daily basis as they move into the difficult stages of the fight against mesothelioma.
Chemotherapy can kill off bad cells and shrinks tumor growth.
Radiation can shrink tumors and decrease pain and increases the quality of life. For example, if the patient is experiencing severe chest pain when taking a deep breathe, radiation can help to relieve that pain.
Palliative surgical interventions vary based on the type of mesothelioma.
Pleurodesis: Doctors place talc powder into the pleural space which acts like a sponge and prevents fluid from building up again. This surgery can help make breathing easier.
Thoracentesis: Doctors drain fluid from the lung. This surgery can also help make breathing easier.
Paracentesis: Doctors drain fluid from the abdominal cavity. This surgery can help to relieve stomach pressure or pain.
Pericardiocentesis: Doctors drain fluid from the pericardial sack. This surgery can help to relieve chest pain and prevent arathymias or other heart related abnormalities.
Alternative Pain Management for Mesothelioma Patients
One of the easiest ways a family caregiver can help a mesothelioma patient combat pain is through distraction techniques. Taking them on short outings, whether it be to a local store, park or church, playing soft music, implementing meditative breathing or animal therapy have all proven effective in managing pain.
Most important in supporting your loved one’s quality of life is ensuring they’re in a supportive environment. Support can come in many forms, whether it’s providing transportation to palliative treatments, helping the patient engage in alternative forms of pain management, or involving additional specialists, such as nutritionists and clergy.
If you’d like more information about caring for someone with mesothelioma, or additional resources to explore palliative care, click here.