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Pain Medications Are An Important Part of Palliative Care For All Mesothelioma Patients

Over the past several years there has been an evolution in thinking regarding the benefits of palliative care. For many years, the perception of palliative care was that it was the end – that there was no more treatment left to offer. Offering ‘comfort’ was a nice way to say there is nothing left to do for you. The perception was wrong then, and it has proven wrong again.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “Palliative care is care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life- threatening disease, such as cancer. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat, as early as possible, the symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment, in addition to the related psychological, social, and spiritual problems.”

Last week I saw a patient who was post surgical; he had had a pleurectomy. He was recovering, but pain was a major issue for him. He did not complain, but you could see it in his face that he was more than uncomfortable. We reviewed his pain medication, but he had not taken much. He was worried he would become addicted. Once he agreed to try taking the pain medication regularly he was able to talk openly about his fear of becoming addicted.

Another patient, a young woman with mesothelioma, decided to stop all pain medication after being discharged from the hospital. She had also undergone a pleurectomy. In order to recover, you need to be able to take deep breaths, walk, sleep, eat – basic things that are not easy to do if you are in pain. She did not like the way the pain medication made her feel. Frightening nightmares made her more afraid of the medication than the pain.

Both patients had their reasons for not taking pain medication. What is important to the patient is individual. One patient did not want to be dependent on the medication, and the other did not like the side effects. In order to help them – listening to their concerns and fears – it is important for them to realize they have the power. The power to understand and make decisions based on what they want.

Inquire at your mesothelioma center regarding the palliative care team. As your journey with mesothelioma continues the team can be with you, helping to improve your quality of life and that of your caregivers. Yes, palliative care also includes caregivers!

If you have questions about your mesothelioma treatment or any aspect of your mesothelioma care, please contact us.

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