Many mesothelioma patients choose palliative treatment to ease symptoms of their cancer and improve their quality of life. Palliative care focuses on reducing pain, rather than trying to cure the disease.
- Combined with standard therapies, palliative treatment can improve mesothelioma survival.
- Palliative care uses a holistic approach to treat physical, mental, and spiritual discomfort.
- There is no single approach to palliative treatment, as it is tailored to each individual patient.
Palliative treatments can be administered to anyone. However, for those who are diagnosed at a late stage of mesothelioma, it is often the only viable course of treatment available. For example, a recent study showed that approximately one third of peritoneal mesothelioma patients receive palliative care to deal with chronic pain and other symptoms.
Benefits of Palliative Treatment
Although palliative care is not designed to treat the underlying disease, studies have shown that mesothelioma patients that receive palliative care often have better outcomes and longer survivorship than those who do not receive it.
Benefits of palliative care include:
- Early Detection of Complications: Because specialists are focused on the symptoms, they can sometimes catch complications earlier than if treating the disease directly.
- Focused Treatment: Doctors focus on treating the things that bother the patient most, which may not be the underlying disease itself. This can improve mood and outlook, and lead to a more positive demeanor overall.
- Holistic Approach: Treating mental, spiritual, and emotional anguish, in addition to the physical suffering, has been shown to improve outcomes overall.
- Higher Quality of Life: By reducing pain, people can focus on their day-to-day life, helping them better enjoy every minute of it.
Types of Palliative Treatment
In most cases, the types of medical treatment available for palliative care are the same as conventional treatments for mesothelioma. The only difference is that instead of trying to eradicate the cancer, palliative therapy focuses on reducing pain from symptoms of the disease.
Surgery: Palliative surgeries focus on removing fluid or tumors to decrease pressure on organs and other parts of the body, which can often cause pain or discomfort. Pleurodesis and thoracentesis are two of the most frequently used surgical methods in palliative care.
Chemotherapy: Like standard chemotherapy treatments, palliative chemotherapy kills cancer cells in an attempt to reduce tumor size. However, when used palliatively, chemotherapy is intended as a relief from symptoms rather than as an attempt to cure the disease.
Radiation: Radiation can shrink tumors and stop their growth. When used as part of a palliative technique, radiation can often provide relief from symptoms of the cancer.
Non-Physical Palliative Care
Palliative treatment is designed to treat not only physical symptoms, but also mental, spiritual, and emotional symptoms that come with cancer. As a result, emphasis is placed on a holistic approach to palliative treatment for mesothelioma patients.
In most cases, patients undergoing palliative treatment will work with a team of individuals to receive the care they need. Here are just some of the types of specialists that people might work with as part of their palliative treatment plan.
- Primary care doctor
- Medical Specialists
- Spiritual advisors
- Physical therapists
- Massage therapists
- Alternative treatment specialists