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Electronic Support for Mesothelioma Cancer Patients: Does it Help?

counselingResearchers in Australia suspect that online and telephone support services have the potential to improve outcomes for mesothelioma patients and they’ve just announced a first-of-its-kind study to test the theory.

Patients and families who receive a devastating diagnosis like malignant mesothelioma typically have many questions, in addition to emotional and practical issues, and support services can be an invaluable resource for them.

Unfortunately, not every mesothelioma patient has access to the support they need to manage the complexities of their illness.

Telephone and web-based service like live chat and email are inexpensive to provide and can be delivered over long distances, potentially improving access for mesothelioma patients who need them.

Randomized Controlled Trial of Mesothelioma Patients

But are these services really more effective at improving mesothelioma outcomes than simply providing patients with printed information? Scientists with the University of Newcastle in Callaghan plan to find out by monitoring the progress of more than 500 lung cancer and mesothelioma patients.

For their randomized controlled trial, the team will recruit a consecutive sample of newly diagnosed patients with either pleural mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Participants must have received their mesothelioma diagnosis within the previous 4 months, have a life expectancy of at least six months, and have Internet access.

Comparing Mesothelioma Support Methods

To determine which kind of cancer support services work best, mesothelioma and lung cancer patients will be randomly selected to receive either an information booklet, proactive telephone support or proactive Internet-based support, chat and/or email.

The impact of the information and support these patients receive will be measured with questionnaires at three and six months.

“It is hypothesized that participants receiving telephone or Web support will report reduced distress and greater self-efficacy than participants receiving booklets,” writes behavioral researcher Associate Professor Christine L. Paul.

Dr. Paul also theorizes that lung cancer and mesothelioma patients who receive support over the Internet will experience results comparable to those who receive telephone support. The results could have a significant impact on the way this kind of mesothelioma care is delivered in the future.

“If proven effective, electronic approaches such as live-chat and email have the potential to increase the accessibility and continuity of supportive care delivered by community-based services,” says Dr. Paul.

The team hopes the information they gather will facilitate redesign of helpline-style services so that they can better service the unique mental, emotional, and informational needs of people with mesothelioma and their families.


Paul, CL, “Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial of Proactive Web-based Versus Telephone-based Information and Support: Can Electronic Platforms Deliver Effective Care for Lung Cancer Patients””, October 26, 2016, JMIR Research Protocols, Vol. 5, No. 4

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