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Pain Management Tips for Mesothelioma Patients

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Mesothelioma’s impact on the body can be fast-acting and cause extreme pain. This disease is notably difficult to diagnose, as symptoms which present may be indicative of other health issues and illnesses. And because this rare form of cancer is often diagnosed in its later stages, pain management can become a serious concern for mesothelioma patients. After a diagnosis, patients need to know what to expect and how to manage painful symptoms, as well as be aware of any legal options they may be eligible to pursue. The following information can help inform patients of the types of pain symptomatic of each type of mesothelioma, pain management methods doctors most often implement, and strategies for tending to mind, emotional, and whole-body health.

Types of Pain

The methods of pain management a doctor recommends will depend on the type of pain the patient is experiencing. For each of the four types of mesothelioma, there are different ways the body reacts to cause the patient pain and discomfort. Let’s take a look at each of the four types of mesothelioma and their associated pain-causing symptoms.

Pleural Mesothelioma. In the most common form of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, disease forms in the lining (pleura) of the lungs. This type of the illness affects 80-90% of those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma. The pain associated with pleural mesothelioma usually takes the form of:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing and exhaustion from coughing
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Pressure due to fluid buildup
  • Pressure due to tumor growth
  • Pressure on organs surrounding the lungs
  • Nerve pain

Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma cases comprise up to 20% of those diagnosed and involve the lining of the abdominal cavity, called the peritoneum. The painful indicators associated with this form of mesothelioma include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Pressure due to fluid buildup
  • Pressure due to tumor growth
  • Pressure on nearby organs and body areas
  • Nausea, poor digestion, and lack of appetite
  • Intestinal discomfort
  • Nerve pain

Pericardial Mesothelioma. A rare form of mesothelioma seen in only about 1% of diagnosed patients, pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart, or pericardium. The pain which presents with pericardial mesothelioma can manifest as:

  • Chest pain
  • Right shoulder pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pressure in the chest area
  • Swelling in the legs and feet

Testicular Mesothelioma. As the rarest type of the disease, testicular mesothelioma is only found in less than 1% of diagnosed cases. It develops in the membrane lining the testes and can cause the following types of pain, although it can be difficult to diagnose and pinpoint symptoms:

  • Testicular pain
  • Groin area pain
  • Pressure due to fluid buildup
  • Pressure due to tumor growth

Pain Management Methods

One of the jobs of the doctor is to assess all factors of the patient’s unique condition to determine the best treatment options and pain management techniques. Methods of managing pain which work for one patient may not work with another. Additionally, each person has their own reactions and side effects which need to be taken into consideration when choosing a pain care plan. A physician may recommend one or more of the following pain management methods based on the type of mesothelioma diagnosed, the form and severity of pain, difficulty of treatment, any side effects the patient may have suffered from another pain care option, and other factors:

  • Over-the-counter medication
  • Non-opioid prescription medication
  • Topical pain patches
  • Antidepressants and anticonvulsants for nerve pain
  • Fluid draining
  • Palliative surgery to alleviate pressure
  • Radiation therapy
  • Opioids
  • Palliative chemotherapy
  • Anesthetics or pain medications injected into the spine

Caring for Physical, Emotional, and Mental Health

The best approaches to pain management involve a balance of physical medical treatments and effective psychological care strategies. Anxiety, depression, and distress are normal reactions to the severe, ongoing pain associated with a disease like mesothelioma.

Strong links have been shown between pain and mental health. While poor mental and emotional health can exacerbate physical pain, chronic pain can correspondingly lead to debilitating mental health issues like sleeplessness, depression, and panic disorders. On the other hand, a person who has the care and resources to support their emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing during pain management is more apt to experience better overall quality of life and physical health.

Here are a few tips for sustaining total health and minimum discomfort during a mesothelioma pain management regimen you or a loved one is undergoing.

  • Support Groups. Being a member of a community of people sharing similar life experiences can be a great opportunity to build friendships, share stories, learn coping methods, ease loneliness, and avert feelings of isolation during a difficult time period.
  • Nutrition. A strong foundation of nutrient-rich eating is important when coping with any form of disease and physical distress. Diet changes can have a substantial impact on the body’s ability to heal and respond to pain relief techniques. A doctor can recommend a qualified registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to help patients make the best food choices for their condition and treatments.
  • Counseling. Some care is best managed by a professional in the field of psychological health. In addition to staying surrounded by family, friends, doctors, and support groups, many mesothelioma patients benefit from the medical care of a trusted counselor, therapist, or other mental health care provider.
  • Relaxation Exercises. Stress-reducing activities can be highly impactful on both physical and emotional health, and the benefits are many. Activities should be chosen based on the patient’s physical capabilities and preferences. This type of exercise can include meditation, focused breathing, guided imagery, yoga, qigong, aromatherapy, baths, massage, walking, swimming, or music or art therapy.
  • Hobbies. The things that bring a person joy should be even more highly prioritized when working to improve quality of life. Reading, playing games, solving puzzles, baking, gardening, creative writing, knitting, photography, painting, scrapbooking—anything physically-accessible that gives enjoyment should make up a good portion of a mesothelioma patient’s health routine.
  • Spiritual Care. Speaking with a chaplain or other spiritual care advisor can bring great relief to those experiencing physical pain and anguish. Religious, spiritual, and faith-based practices can be incorporated into a healthcare routine to help patients build community, receive support, find answers, address concerns, join others in prayer, and achieve inner peace and optimism.
  • Taking Care of Daily Needs. Having daily necessities (like paying bills, cleaning the house, or buying groceries) taken care of can ease a sizeable burden from the shoulders of a patient coping with an illness such as mesothelioma. A friend, family member, or caretaker who can either handle these chores or assist the patient in completing them together can provide enormous benefit to the patient who needs their full attention to focus on pain and health management.

A Mesothelioma Lawyer Can Help

After a mesothelioma diagnosis, you may realize that a mesothelioma lawyer can help you take the legal steps you need to take. Our attorneys have over 30 combined years of mesothelioma and asbestos trial experience. We are committed to standing up for the rights of people who have been unknowingly exposed to asbestos, having represented victims and their family members across the country. A mesothelioma diagnosis is personal to us, and at Frost Law Firm, PC, we envision a future where no one needs to live in fear of this disease. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to begin a conversation with one of our attorneys.

Our Experience Is Personal

Scott L. Frost’s Family Experience with Lung Cancer

For most of his life, Scott L. Frost’s father, who was in the construction industry, worked with and sold products containing asbestos without knowing the materials were dangerous. He was diagnosed with lung cancer 40 years after starting his career, leading Scott’s family to fight like they had never fought before.

Pictured here with his wife of over 50 years, Scott’s father eventually succumbed to the cancer. Since then, Scott has made it his mission to do everything in his power to make sure corporations understand how dangerous asbestos is and prevent future generations from suffering as his family did, as well as support research that may lead to finding a cure.

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