Mesothelioma is serious cancer with a poor prognosis. For many patients, mesothelioma is a painful disease. The pain from asbestos cancer is often due to tumors that press on vital organs and nerves. As the disease gets worse, fluid buildup in the chest or abdomen can make it harder to breathe or eat.
If mesothelioma gets to the later stages, it can get into the bones and muscles and cause aches and pains. While the prognosis for mesothelioma is not good, there have been advances in treatments that are extending life for some patients.
Symptoms of Pain from Mesothelioma
Pain is usually an early sign of mesothelioma. It is estimated that at least 60% of pleural (lung) mesothelioma patients have chest pain. Approximately 30%-50% of peritoneal mesothelioma patients have abdominal pain. Most pleural mesothelioma patients also difficulty breathing and taking a full breath.
Pain from this cancer can be harder to treat than that from other cancers. Experts say a combination of medical treatments and mental health strategies are the best ways to deal with mesothelioma pain.
What Are Mesothelioma Pain Treatments?
Every patient has different types of pain from mesothelioma. So there are several ways to treat patients so they have a better quality of life. Some of the common ways to manage mesothelioma pain are:
- Pain drugs and palliative therapies
- Medical procedures, such as removal of fluid buildup around the lungs to make it easier to breathe
- Alternative therapies such as acupuncture
Palliative Treatments for Your Mesothelioma Pain
In some cases, mesothelioma cannot be effectively treated, so the best option is to provide palliative treatments that will reduce pain. Medication is the most common treatment for mesothelioma pain.
Palliative care also can be referred to as supportive care. Note that this is different from hospice care, which focuses on making you more comfortable at the end of your life. Palliative care supports other mesothelioma therapies and is integrated into mesothelioma care plans.
Below are some of the most common medications used to treat mesothelioma pain:
- Minor pain: Physicians start with over-the-counter drugs such as Advil or Tylenol to control minor aches and pains.
- Moderate pain: Physicians may use weak opioids, such as codeine, with antidepressants, anti-inflammatories, or anti-convulsants.
- Severe pain: Doctors may use strong opioids in the end stages of asbestos cancer, such as morphine.
Some mesothelioma patients are concerned about taking opioids because they are afraid of becoming addicted. But your quality of life with mesothelioma is improved by taking opioids, so doctors recommend them.
Opioids also can reduce your fatigue and give you a clearer mind, especially with severe cancer pain.
There are several ways that pain medications can be given to you. For instance, if oral drugs are not strong enough, your physician can provide you with a pain patch or a liquid pain drug that acts quickly.
Medical Marijuana for Mesothelioma Pain
In some parts of the United States, medical cannabis is available to treat pain from asbestos cancer. For some cancer patients, this treatment can significantly reduce pain, as well as anxiety, nausea, and insomnia.
There are several types of medical marijuana that allow the patient to access the drug without needing to smoke the drug, for example, CBD.
It is important to inform your doctor if you plan to use medical marijuana or any other pain option that was not prescribed to you. This will reduce the chance of medication interactions that can cause problems with your treatment.
Medical Procedures for Mesothelioma Pain
Pain drugs are effective for most asbestos cancer patients. But they will not work for everyone. When this occurs, there are medical treatments that can treat your pain. For instance, fluid buildup (pleural effusion) around the lungs can make it very difficult to breathe. This problem can be alleviated my minor surgery to drain the fluid.
Some of the most common pain relief medical procedures are:
- Surgery: A neurosurgeon can do a procedure to block the nerve pathways that take pain signals to your brain.
- Local or regional anesthesia: Your anesthesiologist can give you local or regional pain blockers with infusions or injections. This treatment is very common in many pain management facilities.
- Palliative chemotherapy: If your chemotherapy cannot cure the asbestos cancer, it still can be used to shrink the tumor, lower pain, and enhance your quality of life.
- Palliative radiation: Using focused radiation beams on tumors to shrink them can reduce pain. A clinical study in 2016 published in Pain Medicine found that radiation therapy can shrink pleural tumors and offer pain relief in approximately 50% of patients. Learn more about high-dose radiotherapy.
Psychological Tools to Manage Mesothelioma Pain
You can benefit from practicing mental health techniques to reduce your pain, including distraction, relaxation, and visualization. It also can be helpful to reach out to cancer support groups for emotional support.
Experts say that the experience of pain is linked to our feelings and thoughts. If you are feeling anxiety and depression, your pain will feel worse. Chronic pain can prevent you from working or seeing friends, which makes you feel isolated and lonely. Being isolated can make you focus on your pain and make it feel even worse.
It is important, to be honest, and open with your doctor and tell him or her that you need a counselor or support group if you need it. If you feel overwhelmed with your pain, ask your doctor for a referral to a pain management clinic.
Doctor-recommended tips to manage your pain include:
- Note what makes your pain better or worse.
- Set activities during the day when you feel the best.
- Get as much sleep as you can. Fatigue can make your pain worse.
- When you feel pain, focus attention on things that make you happy, such as books, TV shows, games, visits with friends, etc.
Complementary Therapies for Mesothelioma Pain
Doctors say some complementary and alternative therapies can make asbestos cancer less painful. For instance, some have found that music and art therapy can distract the patient from pain and help them find more meaning in their daily lives.
Hobbies and crafts can provide you with something productive to do when you cannot sleep or cannot be physically active.
Get Mesothelioma Legal Help
With over $30 billion available for victims through the Asbestos Trust Funds, you could be entitled to financial compensations without ever filing a lawsuit. Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer victims qualify immediately. Complete the form or call us toll-free (800) 352-0871.