Mesothelioma treatment is often divided into two groups: curative methods; and palliative (pain-relief) care. Most patients with this rare cancer receive one or the other depending on the stage of their disease, their age and their overall health.
Using curative and palliative methods together could be the future of mesothelioma treatment.
One study, from researchers at the National Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital, shows the benefits of combining palliative care with curative treatment immediately after diagnosis. The results from the clinical trials found that this combination improved mesothelioma patients’ quality of life.
How the Study Was Conducted
The study, which concluded with results in 2017, was led by Dr. Jennifer Ternel of Massachusetts General Hospital. She and her team analyzed 350 cancer patients, and mesothelioma was one of the many conditions accepted for the studies.
Half of the patients received just the standard of care, which means they underwent curative treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The other half received these standard methods along with palliative treatments, which is an unorthodox strategy for patients who were recently diagnosed with their condition.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology interviewed Dr. Joseph Greer, who was on Dr. Ternel’s research team. He described a “holistic approach” to palliative care that included symptom management and creating “a strong therapeutic relationship” between patient and care provider.
Mesothelioma palliative treatments include:
- Pain-relief medications
- Radiation to shrink or control tumors and relieve tumor-caused pressure on the body
- Fluid-draining surgeries such as thoracentesis for pleural mesothelioma, paracentesis for peritoneal mesothelioma and pericardiocentesis for pericardial mesothelioma
Results Show Benefits of Immediate Palliative Care
The researchers used the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy to score patients’ quality of life at the start of the study, the 12-week interval and the 24-week interval. Higher scores for this assessment meant a better quality of life.
The scores were as follows:
- After 12 weeks, patients receiving both standard care and palliative care scored 81.10 for quality of life while patients receiving just the standard care scored 77.70.
- After 24 weeks, the quality-of-life score gap widened (81.26 versus 75.90).
Patients also took an assessment for the Anxiety and Depression Scale. Lower scores meant less anxiety and depression. The scores were as follows:
- After 12 weeks, patients receiving both curative care and palliative care scored 29 on the Anxiety and Depression Scale. Meanwhile, patients receiving just curative treatment scored 32.
- After 24 weeks, the gap widened between the two groups (24 versus 32).
Caregivers of patients who received palliative care also scored better for quality of life. Their psychological distress was also lower than that of caregivers whose patients only received curative care.
Palliative care combined with standard care also resulted in significant changes to the patients’ quality of life scores. After 24 weeks, these patients’ quality of life improved by a score of 3.80. Patients who only received standard care had a lesser improvement, of 0.69. The reduction in anxiety was also much higher for patients who received palliative care.
Where to Find the Best Care for Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Maintaining a high quality of life for mesothelioma patients is essential. This disease is aggressive and includes numerous uncomfortable symptoms and effects. All mesothelioma patients — even those who were recently diagnosed and have an early-stage disease — should consider their quality of life along with trying to cure themselves of this cancer.
If you’re a newly diagnosed mesothelioma patient, the first step to prioritizing your quality of life during treatment is connecting with one of the top cancer centers in the country. Our Doctor Match program will connect you with a specialist based on your diagnosis and other specifications.
If you prefer more personal help, our team is available by phone or email to assist you in finding a mesothelioma specialist. We value your quality of life and will only put you in touch with the most experienced doctors. Email our patient advocate and registered nurse, Karen Ritter, at firstname.lastname@example.org to find the right doctor.
- Early Palliative Care in Advanced Lung and Gastrointestinal Malignancies. Clinicaltrials.gov. Retrieved from: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/results/NCT01401907. Accessed: 12/30/19.
- Early Palliative Care With Standard Care or Standard Care Alone in Improving Quality of Life of Patients With Incurable Lung or Non-colorectal Gastrointestinal Cancer and Their Family Caregivers. Clinicaltrials.gov. Retrieved from: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/results/NCT02349412. Accessed: 12/30/19.
- How Early Palliative Care May Benefit Patients With Incurable Cancer. ASCO Post. Retrieved from: https://www.ascopost.com/issues/september-25-2017/how-early-palliative-care-may-benefit-patients-with-incurable-cancer/. Accessed: 01/03/20.
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