If you’ve ever been really sick or if you’ve broken a limb or otherwise injured yourself, you know that dealing with the pain associated with any of those situations can be the most difficult. Similarly, cancer patients have a lot of symptoms connected to their disease and – in many cases – pain can be among the worst.
Mesothelioma patients are no exception. Many deal with extreme pain, especially as their disease progresses to its later stages. Even early on, however, chest pain is a major complaint expressed by those stricken with asbestos cancer, mostly because that’s where the cancer is located but also because lung capacity becomes restricted and it is difficult to breathe.
When the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, pain can occur in those areas as well, or the metastases can prompt overall, generalized pain, caused by widespread cell damage.
Pleural effusion, the buildup of fluid in the lining of the lungs, is also responsible for extreme pain in pleural meso patients as well as shortness of breath. In addition, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) can also result in pain as will persistent coughing, which is a common symptom of asbestos cancer.
Those who have pericardial mesothelioma – cancer that attacks the lining of the heart – will most likely deal with even stronger chest pain that might require heavy-duty pain killers for relief.
How pain is addressed
Mesothelioma pain management is a priority when treating a patient as this is one of the most painful forms of cancer, largely because it is usually already quite advanced by the time it is diagnosed.
Of course, the first option for general mesothelioma pain relief is usually some sort of oral medication. The patient might begin with standard over-the-counter medications including ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
When mesothelioma pain worsens or for breakthrough pain (sudden pain that’s not necessarily constant), your oncologist or pain management specialist might recommend something stronger, often from the opioid family, such as oxycodone.
Chemotherapy is recommended for many mesothelioma patients and can serve to reduce pain in some cases, but treatment with chemotherapeutic drugs like Alimta often comes with a host of other side effects that can truly make life difficult.
Radiation therapy meant to shrink tumors is also recommended for relief of pain in some mesothelioma patients. A smaller tumor means less pressure on the lungs and chest. Radiation does include some side effects but they are generally not as severe as those associated with chemotherapy but may include skin irritation and extreme fatigue.
Some patients turn to alternative therapies for pain relief while dealing with mesothelioma. Even doctors sometimes recommend these different kinds of non-standard treatments and more and more hospitals – especially cancer centers – are offering easy access to these treatments, which might include:
• Meditation – This can be easily taught to the patient and can be called upon anywhere and at any time.
• Massage – Some patients enjoy a relaxing therapeutic massage when experiencing pain. However, the massage therapist should be well-versed in dealing with cancer patients.
• Acupuncture – This ancient Chinese medical art that involves inserting long, thin needles into pre-designated areas of the body is found to be quite effective by those suffering from pain.
• TENS Therapy – TENS uses a low-voltage electrical current to ease pain. It can be used by itself or with therapeutic massage.