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Mesothelioma Palliative Treatments

Despite what some may think, receiving palliative treatments does not mean your doctor believes there is no hope for your case. In fact, palliative treatments are being increasingly used as a compliment to standard and alternative mesothelioma treatmentsas a way to decrease pain and make life more enjoyable.

In the past several years, palliative care has emerged as a new specialty in cancer treatment. It allows patients to stop focusing on the pain and discomfort and concentrate on recovery.

Palliative Care for Pain and Beyond

Although palliative care can be administered by any medical professional, palliative care specialists focus on treating pain symptoms, side effects and the emotional aspects. The main goal is to maintain a good quality of life.

In mesothelioma treatment, many palliative care specialists work as part of a multidisciplinary team. That team works together to give the patient the best possible care. The palliative care specialist confers with the doctors to manage pain and other symptoms.

There are three main types of pain that palliative care is aimed at controlling:

  • Chronic Pain -- Ongoing pain that leads to muscle tension, depleted energy, anger, fear and anxiety.
  • Acute Pain -- Sharp, sudden pain that can serve as a warning for a disease process. It generally dissipates after the cause of the pain heals or is treated. Untreated or unrelieved, acute pain can lead to chronic pain.
  • Breakthrough Pain -- Sharp, unexpected pain that happens in those taking pain-relieving medications.

In addition to treating pain, palliative care is also aimed at treating other common discomforts:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Fatigue
  • Skin Abnormalities
  • Dry Mouth

Types of Palliative Care

Many mesothelioma patients who seek palliative care options find that many of the standard treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, are used in palliative treatments. In most cases, the goal is to reduce the size of the tumors to reduce pain and discomfort.

In other cases, pharmacological therapy is used to alleviate discomfort, ease depression or stop constipation. In essence, it is the use of medications to ease symptoms. At the same time, nonpharmacological therapy, which includes complementary approaches such as massage and acupuncture, is used to relieve symptoms as well.

Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care

According to a study performed at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, palliative care is known to transform a patient’s quality of life. It allows them to focus on healing rather than pain and discomfort. Even though most major cancer centers have palliative care specialists on staff, they are underused because of the palliative care stigma. That is, the common misconception that palliative care and hospice care is one in the same.

While both share similar goals -- to relieve pain -- hospice care is far different. Hospice is usually offered to patients who are at the end of life and are no longer receiving curative treatments from an oncologist. Palliative care is for any patient who is facing chronic, acute or breakthrough pain.

Guidelines for Palliative Care

The National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care, which creates clinical practice guidelines, developed areas of concern for palliative care. The organization said palliative care should go beyond physical pain to address other aspects of care including the following:

  • Psychological and Psychiatric Aspects of Care
  • Social Aspects of Care
  • Spiritual And Religious Aspects of Care
  • Cultural Aspects of Care

The guidelines make it clear that palliative care is more than taking a few pills to make pain go away. It is about ensuring that the patient is comfortable on all levels to fight the disease.

Sources:

  1. National Cancer Institute. Palliative Care in Cancer. Retrieved by http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/support/palliative-care
  2. National Consensusu Project for Quality Palliative Care. Guidelines. Retrieved from http://nationalconsensusproject.org/Guidelines_Download2.aspx
  3. Nazario, Brunilda, Palliative Care Center. WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/palliative-care/features/cancer-palliative-care-and-quality-of-life
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