Why Mesothelioma Patients Benefit from Palliative Care and Hospice Carehospice and palliative care are two different – but beneficial – forms of medical attention for mesothelioma patients. Although they both focus on making the patient as comfortable as possible, they are given with different intent.
Palliative therapies refer to treatments that do not have the potential to cure the cancer but still provide symptom control benefits. For mesothelioma patients, these therapies may reduce chest pain or dyspnea and dispel anxiety. Palliative care may even be able to help patients respond more positively to traditional mesothelioma treatments, such as surgeries or Alimta chemotherapy. Patients can obtain these benefits from palliative care at any stage of their disease, regardless of the expected time to progression.
Hospice care, on the other hand, provides benefits that are more appropriate for patients with a later stage of mesothelioma. Typically, patients enter hospice when they have six months left to live. Since most mesothelioma patients survive about a year after diagnosis, they may not need to consider hospice care right away.
Benefits of Palliative Care for Mesothelioma Patients
Palliative care for mesothelioma can include minor surgery, radiation therapy and several alternative procedures. These therapies can help reduce the pressure on the lungs, improve breathing and relieve pain.
Patients may undergo surgery to drain fluid from the chest or abdomen (known respectively as a pleurodesis or a paracentesis). These operations can have significant pain reduction benefits until the fluid accumulates, at which point the patient may need to repeat the procedure.
Mesothelioma patients can also benefit from palliative radiation therapy. Although it does relieve pain by shrinking the tumor, it is still considered a palliative therapy as long as the doctor does not expect it to cure the cancer.
Oxygen therapy and respiratory therapy can also provide palliative benefits to mesothelioma patients. Both of these therapies can make it easier to breathe, and respiratory therapies can improve lung function over an extended period of time.
Doctors may prescribe these therapies alongside potentially curative treatments, or they may be the patient’s sole cancer management system. This depends on whether or not the patient is a candidate for more aggressive therapies. When combined with curative care, palliative treatments can also help patients manage the side effects of traditional therapy. Alternative therapies such as yoga, therapeutic massage and acupuncture are especially useful for this purpose.
Benefits of Hospice Care for Mesothelioma Patients
Hospice care takes palliative care to the next level. It strives to make the patient as comfortable as possible in the face of a late-stage disease. Hospice workers can administer medications that reduce pain caused by the mesothelioma tumors, and they can position the patient in a way that encourages smoother breathing. Hospice nurses can also address the patient’s hygiene needs, making it ideal for patients who need extra personal assistance.
Hospice also provides spiritual or emotional care for mesothelioma patients who are coming to terms with a terminal diagnosis. While certain palliative therapies can relieve stress and anxiety, hospice organizations often employ mental health professionals and clergy members who are trained to provide these additional benefits.
Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.
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