Evaluating mesothelioma symptoms is an important step in planning treatment for asbestos cancer. But researchers at a top US cancer center say it is hard to do a thorough job using current tools.
That’s why doctors at MD Anderson have developed their own method for evaluating mesothelioma symptoms. They made some mesothelioma-specific additions to an existing cancer symptom evaluation system.
Tests on more than 200 mesothelioma patients show the method works well and is easy to use. The developers hope doctors can use it to design better mesothelioma treatment plans.
The Importance of Evaluating Mesothelioma Symptoms
When a patient receives a mesothelioma diagnosis, the next step is evaluating mesothelioma symptoms. This process can help give the doctor valuable information about how the body is coping with the cancer and the treatment.
A questionnaire is a simple and objective way of evaluating mesothelioma symptoms. Patients may complete a symptom assessment questionnaire several times throughout their treatment. Tracking symptoms over time can show doctors what is working and what may need to be changed.
In Search of a Better Assessment Tool
The MD Anderson Symptom Inventory (MDASI) was developed for clinicians and researchers. It asks patients to rate the severity of 13 common symptoms of cancer – such as pain and fatigue – and six ways they may be interfering with a patient’s daily life. The inventory asks about things like walking, activity, and relationships. Each item gets a score between 0 and 10.
MDASI was not specifically designed for evaluating mesothelioma symptoms. Mesothelioma patients have many of the same symptoms and problems as other cancer patients. But they also have certain issues that are unique to mesothelioma.
The MD Anderson team used what they know about these differences to create a mesothelioma-specific version of MDASI. In a recent study, 248 mesothelioma patients answered the MDASI-MPM questionnaire several times during mesothelioma therapy.
The researchers say MDASI-MPM makes evaluating mesothelioma symptoms easier and more effective. In an article in the Journal of Patient Reported Outcomes, they call it “valid, reliable, and responsive”.
Knowing the Signs of Mesothelioma
Anyone with a history of asbestos exposure should understand the importance of evaluating mesothelioma symptoms. Asbestos is the number one cause of mesothelioma.
There is no known way of preventing mesothelioma after exposure. But mesothelioma patients who receive treatment in the early stages of the disease typically have the best outcomes.
Early warning signs of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, persistent cough, and chest pain. People with peritoneal mesothelioma often complain of bloating, abdominal pain, and digestive issues.
Mendoza, TR, et al, “Evaluation of the psychometric properties and minimally important difference of the MD Anderson Symptom Inventory for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MDASI-MPM)”, June 17, 2019, Journal of Patient Reported Outcomes, https://jpro.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s41687-019-0122-5
The MD Anderson Symptom Inventory, MD Anderson Cancer Center website, https://www.mdanderson.org/research/departments-labs-institutes/departments-divisions/symptom-research/symptom-assessment-tools/md-anderson-symptom-inventory.html