The symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-induced diseases aren’t the only problems that cancer patients and their families have to deal with. A mesothelioma diagnosis leads to many life changes, and readjusting schedules, tackling heavy topics with family members and facing a horrific illness on a daily basis can take a toll on the psyche of anyone in this situation.
Distress is a real issue associated with a mesothelioma diagnosis, but there are ways to address it and lessen the impact it has on you and your family.
Who experiences distress?
Distress is persistent, and brings constant feelings of anger, anxiety and fear. According to CURE magazine, at least one-third of cancer patients suffer from it. Because every year, more than 8,500 individuals in the U.S. die from an asbestos-related cancer such as malignant mesothelioma or cancers of the lungs or gastrointestinal system, chances are that more than 2,800 of these people struggle with distress.
The emotions associated with distress can come at any time during the process of living with cancer: after diagnosis, at the beginning or end of treatment, during remission, if the cancer comes back, or once the decision to move from curing the disease to alleviating the symptoms has been made.
There’s also evidence that suggests cancer patients who have a prior history of depression or negative major life events, such as job loss or marital discord, may be more vulnerable to these problems.
Distress is a big deal because it can hurt your quality of life. For cancer patients, this could mean increased pain or unwillingness to comply with treatment instructions. Ultimately, this can inflate your healthcare costs and worsen the medical outcome.
Patients aren’t the only ones who can experience distress. Many caregivers are also prone to having these problems, which can hurt their abilities to look after their patients.
What can be done?
Fortunately, more healthcare professionals these days recognize that distress is a major problem among cancer patients. This realization spurred the greater use of tools that can screen patients for distress. Overall, regular screening is a good thing because it not only identifies people in need of treatment for distress in a timely fashion, but it also removes some of the stigma that’s unjustly put upon mental health issues. Individuals can use online versions of these tools through the websites of the Cancer Support Community and the American Cancer Society.
As for the cancer patients themselves, it’s important to remember that there’s no one way of dealing with distress that will work for everyone. Individuals may become good candidates for antidepressant medications or talk therapy with a psychiatrist. There are also many support groups out there for cancer patients.
A few other methods of dealing with distress include the use of meditation, yoga or other physical activities. Sometimes, simply adopting a pet can provide much-needed comfort.