Palliative care and hospice care both play a role in providing comfort to individuals with mesothelioma. Whereas hospice care begins once treatment has stopped, and survival is no longer a goal of care, palliative care can start anytime, as its goal is to provide comfort while treating the disease. Palliative care for mesothelioma works to improve an individual’s quality of life and focuses on relieving pain and other distressing symptoms.
For years, palliative care has been reserved for patients with late-stage mesothelioma. Now, researchers are discovering how pursuing palliative care sooner could be beneficial. Palliative care can support an individual with mesothelioma in their treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Palliative Care Options and Benefits for Mesothelioma
Palliative care for mesothelioma comes in the forms of procedures and supportive care. Palliative procedures include
- Therapeutic thoracentesis and pleurodesis: two treatments to remove fluid buildup around the lungs
- Therapeutic paracentesis: a treatment to remove fluid buildup in the abdomen
- Therapeutic pericardiocentesis: a treatment to remove fluid buildup around the heart
- Radiation therapy: a treatment to shrink tumors in and around the lungs
These palliative treatments help to improve symptoms of pain, breathlessness, and cough.
Supportive care for mesothelioma can involve
- Home health care to receive treatment while enjoying the comforts of home
- Medication to manage pain and poor appetite
- Respiratory therapy and physical therapy to manage breathlessness and weakness
- Counseling and support groups to improve mental well-being
- Complementary and alternative medicine to provide additional strategies to support health and wellness
These palliative therapies may extend survival, like standard treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but their main goal is to improve quality of life.1 Similarly, standard treatment for mesothelioma can have palliative effects.2
Deciding on Goals of Care and Palliative Care for Mesothelioma
The goal of palliative care for individuals with mesothelioma is to help them live a happier and healthier life while treating their disease. Improving symptoms and providing comfort is what it is all about. In particular, if a patient’s doctor advises them against an aggressive form of surgery, they will often choose to add palliative care to their treatment to help meet their care goals.
Deciding on when and how to pursue palliative care for mesothelioma is a personal decision, best made in consultation with health professionals. Input from an oncology team composed of medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists can be invaluable in making this decision. Sharing one’s individual needs and values with a trusted team of specialists is equally valuable to ensure one’s goals of care are met.