Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma mainly affects the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) but can also occur in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma) and around the heart (pericardial mesothelioma).
According to the American Cancer Society, about 3,000 new mesothelioma cases are diagnosed annually in the United States. Due to the long latency period of 20 to 60 years between asbestos exposure and diagnosis, mesothelioma rates are expected to remain stable or slowly increase over the next decade in the US. People at the highest risk are those who have worked jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles, such as construction, shipyard work, and asbestos mining.
A mesothelioma diagnosis can be devastating news, both emotionally and physically. While there is no cure, treatments can help improve the quality of life.
Coping with a mesothelioma diagnosis involves processing difficult emotions, making important treatment decisions, managing side effects, and finding sources of support.
Here are seven tips that can help someone diagnosed with mesothelioma.
1. Learn About Treatment Options
Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis understandably sparks an urgent need to explore your treatment options. It’s paramount to consult with mesothelioma specialists with experience and expertise in treating this rare form of cancer. It is key to educate yourself thoroughly so you can make well-informed decisions about your care. Each treatment plan is tailored to the individual’s current stage and location of the cancer. While doctors typically recommend multimodal therapy, which combines surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, there are other options to discuss with your medical team, like clinical trials.
Enrolling in a clinical trial opens up access to promising new treatments that aren’t yet widely available. While clinical trials have some risks, they may benefit your treatment and recovery. Discuss all options with your doctor to determine whether a clinical trial is right based on your cancer stage and overall health goals.
2. Seek Support From Loved Ones
Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma can feel overwhelming as well as isolating. However, you don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out to your loved ones and allow them to support you during this difficult time. Open up to them about your diagnosis, treatment options, and how they can best help you. Whether you need help around the house or someone to attend appointments with you, let your loved ones know what would mean the most. Leaning on family and friends can provide comfort and strength.
In addition to your immediate circle, support groups can connect you with others going through similar experiences. Bonding with those who truly understand what you’re going through can help you feel less alone. Support groups also provide a forum to share information and resources.
3. Find Ways to Cope with Stress
A cancer diagnosis inevitably brings significant emotional stress. Be proactive about making time for self-care, as this will be vital for your mental health. Try activities like light exercise, meditation, journaling, or hobbies you enjoy. Do whatever you can to nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Joining a support group is another impactful way to connect with others navigating cancer-related stress, allowing you to share coping strategies and feel less alone.
If anxiety or depression persist, don’t hesitate to seek counseling. When battling cancer, your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so prioritize finding healthy outlets for stress. You can also ask your medical team for referrals to counselors or therapists who specialize in supporting cancer patients.
4. Communicate Openly With Your Medical Team
Establishing open, honest communication with your doctors, nurses, and other care providers is vital when facing mesothelioma. Come prepared to appointments with any questions about your diagnosis, treatment options, side effects, or any other concerns, and ask for clarification until you feel you have a full understanding.
5. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
While battling mesothelioma, maintaining a healthy lifestyle provides critical support for your body as it undergoes treatment. Be intentional about eating a nutritious, high-protein diet to keep your strength and energy up. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Get adequate rest, as your body needs extra sleep during cancer treatment.
It’s also advised to avoid tobacco and limit alcohol intake while undergoing mesothelioma treatment. Lifestyle adjustments that reduce toxins and support your overall well-being will aid healing.
6. Seek Financial Assistance
The costs of mesothelioma testing, treatment, and medications can quickly become overwhelming. However, there are a lot of options to ease the financial burden. Tap into health insurance, prescription assistance programs, and organizations providing financial help for cancer patients. Ask the social worker at your cancer center to help connect you with resources tailored to your specific needs.
In addition, some pharmaceutical companies offer payment assistance programs for their high-cost medications. Don’t let financial hardship prevent you from getting the recommended care and achieving the best possible prognosis. Seek out every available avenue for financial help.
7. Consider Complementary Therapies
Integrative and complementary therapies, used alongside standard medical treatment, can enhance comfort and quality of life for mesothelioma patients. Acupuncture, massage, meditation, yoga, music therapy, art therapy, and other mind-body techniques may help relieve symptoms and treat side effects. Discuss adding such therapies to your care plan to ensure safety and maximum benefit.
A holistic treatment approach addresses physical and emotional needs, supporting you through the challenges ahead.
A mesothelioma diagnosis presents significant challenges. While an incurable cancer, new treatments are extending survival, and many people live for several years after diagnosis. Taking an active role in your care, drawing strength from loved ones, and utilizing all available resources can help you cope both physically and emotionally. There are many sources of information, assistance, and support out there. Stay hopeful by focusing each day on what you can do to maximize your quality of life.
With the right support and care team, it is possible to live well with mesothelioma.
Vivek is a published author of Meidilight and a cofounder of Zestful Outreach Agency. He is passionate about helping webmaster to rank their keywords through good-quality website backlinks. In his spare time, he loves to swim and cycle. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.