The goal of palliative care is to keep the patient as comfortable as possible by alleviating pain and other symptoms. Palliative care contributes to the quality of life for mesothelioma patients at any phase of the disease. The focus in palliative care is not treating the disease, but in relieving the symptoms. Therefore, palliative therapy is not considered a curative method to control the cancer itself. In many cases, palliative treatments are used in conjunction with traditional forms of mesothelioma treatment, such as chemotherapy. The patient, the physician, loved ones, and other caregivers should be involved in defining a goal for palliative treatments.
Some of the symptoms that are often managed through palliative care include:
Pain control is usually one of the first issues addressed with mesothelioma palliative care. One palliative approach to dealing with pain experienced by mesothelioma patients is using pharmacological therapy. Medications used to treat the pain may include non-opioid pain relievers, opioid pain relievers, adjuvant medications, and topical treatments such as a patch, gel, or cream. Non-pharmacological therapies to treat pain may include therapeutic exercise and cognitive behavioral techniques. For some patients, techniques such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, imagery, meditation, biofeedback therapy, and distraction may help to alleviate the pain they are experiencing. Alternative approaches to pain management may include acupuncture or massage therapy.
Medications or oxygen are often used to treat shortness of breath, which can be caused by fluid in the lungs, infection, anemia, or anxiety. Other techniques, such as changing position, using relaxation techniques, or improving air circulation, may also help. Dry mouth may be a side effect of medications, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. It can also be caused by dehydration, anxiety or depression. Palliative approaches to dealing with dry mouth include providing humidified air, chewing sugarless gum, staying well hydrated, and maintaining good oral hygiene.
Nutrition plays a vital role in a patient's well being, but many mesothelioma patients lose their appetites and experience weight loss. Changes in metabolism and poor absorption of food can also cause weight loss. These issues can be managed by eating smaller meals throughout the day and consuming high calorie and high protein foods. There are also medications that can stimulate appetite and prevent nausea and vomiting. Consulting a dietitian or nutritionist is can also be helpful for mesothelioma patients struggling with appetite and weight loss.
Dryness, itchiness, rashes, sores, and ulcers are among the skin problems that mesothelioma patients may experience. Prompt treatment of these conditions is necessary in order to minimize discomfort and the risk of infection. Staying well hydrated, applying moisturizing lotion, and adding baby oil to bath water can help reduce dryness. Itching and rashes can be alleviated by adding baking soda to cool bath water or applying a cool, damp cloth to the affected areas. Other helpful tips include keeping skin clean and dry and checking regularly for pressure sores.
Palliative care can also be used for other symptoms experienced by mesothelioma patients, such as fatigue, anxiety, depression and gastrointestinal problems. If a patient decides they would rather live the remainder of their lives in as much comfort as possible, they may opt to utilize palliative treatments over traditional treatment. The goals of palliative treatment may change as the symptoms change in order to increase the quality of life for patients who suffer from mesothelioma.
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