Contributed by Asbestos.com
A mesothelioma cancer diagnosis can leave families wondering how to best care for their loved one at home. Supportive cancer care for mesothelioma will involve special attention to lung health, as well as finding ways to ease mesothelioma cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.
Consider the following tips to care for your loved one with mesothelioma cancer. Remember that simply being there for them is a lot to handle and taking care of yourself will help you be a better caregiver.
Create a Support Team
One of the best first steps a family can make after a cancer diagnosis is to create a support team. One person alone can’t easily do all that’s required to properly care for someone with cancer.
It will take a team of people to coordinate the care that’s needed for someone with mesothelioma. Reach out to extended family, friends, neighbors and community members for support. Utilize the Calendar offered by Lotsa Helping Hands to coordinate meals, transportation to appointments and other aspects of care.
The friends and family of the primary caregivers can offer direct support to those providing care. For example, in-laws can take on household chores like laundry, doing dishes and cleaning up to free up time for the primary caregivers.
Focus on Pulmonary Care
Lung health is of utmost concern for people with mesothelioma cancer. As the cancer progresses, pulmonary symptoms will likely change or worsen. Difficulty breathing, breathlessness, coughing and pain with breathing are common and treatable.
There are medications and pulmonary therapies available to keep patients comfortable. Certain medications can help open airways to improve breathing. Pain medication can ease discomfort caused by tumors pressing against the chest wall. Patients can work with pulmonary therapists to learn breathing exercises and techniques to improve lung function. Ask your oncologist about a referral to a pulmonary therapist to learn more.
Consider All Treatment Options
The standard of care for mesothelioma involves chemotherapy and radiation therapy. A select few patients are diagnosed early enough to qualify for surgery, but this is not the norm.
Many people with mesothelioma cancer consider participating in a clinical trial. These trials get patients access to new drugs and innovative treatments. For example, a number of new immunotherapy drugs are being tested on mesothelioma. These immunotherapy drugs can extend life by shrinking or controlling tumors and can even ease side effects of chemotherapy.
Reduce Side Effects of Treatment
Controlling side effects of treatment in addition to managing symptoms caused by the cancer is important to keeping patients comfortable. Informing your oncologist of any new symptoms or side effects of treatment is important to do right away. Medications and therapies are available to treat side effects, and it’s important to address them sooner rather than later.
Patients who qualify for surgery will have a lengthy recovery time of four to six weeks. Fatigue, muscle weakness and generalized pain are common after surgery.
Chemotherapy causes fatigue and sometimes nausea or vomiting. Today’s anti-nausea medicines are highly effective at preventing and treating chemotherapy-related nausea. There are also plenty of natural treatments for nausea. Handling fatigue involves managing energy throughout the day and eating a diet high in protein to aid in recovery.
Radiation therapy causes few side effects, but some people may develop skin irritation that feels like sunburn. Using topical ointments like aloe or something recommended by your doctor can help.
Consider Emotional Health
Being diagnosed with cancer can take a big toll on emotional health. Even tough, resilient people become struck with fear after a cancer diagnosis. For some, sadness may become overwhelming.
Learning how to cope with these emotions overnight isn’t realistic. It takes time to learn how to deal with heavy emotions. And doing it alone is a nightmare. People with cancer need support from others to cope with dark emotions. It’s helpful to reach out to a mental health professional for tips on how to cope.
Joining a cancer support group is highly recommended by mental health professionals. It gives patients and family members a chance to connect with others going through a similar experience. This connection helps to normalize the experience and may help patients and loved ones to not feel alone. The compassion and support patients and family receive in a support group is rare to find elsewhere, and the bonds made are never forgotten.