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Complementary Therapy Helps Mesothelioma Patients Feel Better During Cancer Treatment

Pain Management as Treatment Plan for Mesothelioma Patient

Mesothelioma patients who are undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation may find complementary therapies helpful for relieving pain, easing stress and maintaining a positive balance during a difficult time. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.

A two-part report on NBC News quotes Dr. Jun Mao, an assistant professor of Family Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, on the value of complementary therapies as part of cancer treatment. “We do know that acupuncture can help relieve pain by bringing in endogenous opiates, which are like pain medication,” says Dr. Mao whose research focuses in part on the role of acupuncture in relieving pain and side effects of treatment.

Dr. Mao said other complementary therapies such as yoga help reduce pain by reducing stress. They enhance centeredness and peace and make patients feel more in control, thereby reducing stress and pain.

Hospitals in New York and nationwide offer complementary therapies such as yoga, massage, music therapy and acupuncture to help cancer patients deal with cancer pain and treatment side effects including nausea and vomiting. Complementary therapies are generally not cures for cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. But they help mesothelioma patients and other cancer patients feel better.

A 2010 study co-authored by Dr. Mao reported that 70 percent of comprehensive cancer centers on complementary therapies on their websites and many endorse the therapies.

For more than a decade, for example, Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Integrative Medicine Service has offered complementary therapies addressing the physical and emotional needs of cancer patients and improving their quality of life. They are not an alternative to mainstream medicine, but a supplement to it.

A 2008 study co-authored by Dr. Barrie Cassileth, chief of Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, found that acupuncture provided significant reduction in pain dysfunction and dry mouth symptoms among 70 patients with head and neck cancer. Dr. Cassileth said acupuncture, a traditional part of Chinese medicine, does not treat the disease, but can control a number of distressing symptoms such as shortness of breath, anxiety and depression, fatigue, pain and osteoarthritis.

Approximately, 2,500 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma each year in the United States. Asbestos disease takes decades to appear after exposure to asbestos. As a result of the long lag time, people who worked around asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s may only recently have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Many mesothelioma patients are retired workers and veterans who were exposed to asbestos in a workplace or in the service.

For people whose mesothelioma is diagnosed at an early stage, there are treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to control the cancer as well as complementary therapies to help manage the side effects.

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Last Modified: February 18, 2019

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