Most mesothelioma patients would welcome exercise and nutrition advice that might help them cope with their cancer and its symptoms better.
That news comes from a study in the Journal of Geriatric Oncology. Researchers wondered if seniors with lung cancer or mesothelioma would even be open to recommendations about their exercise and nutrition.
The study found that they would and that it would probably help them feel better. But there are barriers to getting this kind of information into the hands of people who need it.
Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer
Pleural mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer that affects the lungs. Mesothelioma patients have many of the same symptoms as lung cancer patients. Among other things, they tend to suffer from breathing problems, chest pain, cough, weakness, and fatigue.
Mesothelioma is most common in people over 65. Exercise and nutrition may not be high on their priority list anyway. After they get sick, it may be even harder to get physical activity and to eat well.
But multiple studies show that exercise and nutrition impact cancer outcomes. The American Lung Cancer Association says moderate activity can improve cancer patients’ fatigue, anxiety, stress, self-esteem, muscle strength, stomach problems, and breathing.
An Australian study of exercise and nutrition in mesothelioma patients came out in 2019. That study found that these two factors have a direct impact on quality of life.
Are Patients Open to Exercise and Nutrition Help?
The newest study was conducted by palliative care and cancer researchers in the UK. They interviewed 12 elderly patients with either lung cancer or pleural mesothelioma. They also talked to caregivers and members of multidisciplinary cancer care teams. Researchers asked them about the “acceptability, usefulness, and practicality” of interventions related to exercise and nutrition.
The conclusion is that most lung cancer and mesothelioma patients are open to getting this kind of help. “Older adults with lung cancer would welcome a proactive, clear and instructive, wellbeing intervention,” writes study author Flavia Swan of Hull York Medical School.
But helping these patients is not as easy and just telling them what to eat or how to move.
Dr. Swan and her colleagues found that cancer patients and their families may be too emotionally or physically exhausted to take exercise and nutrition advice. This is especially true before and during treatment.
The team found that the most helpful intervention for lung cancer and mesothelioma patients must be “tailored to individual need and address physical limitations”. It also needs to take into account patients’ psychological and social welfare in order to have an impact.
Previous studies show patients with the best nutritional status tend to have better mesothelioma survival. Cancer experts recommend a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and lean proteins to maintain nutritional status during mesothelioma treatment.
The American Cancer Society says exercise can reduce treatment-associated nausea and prevent isolation. A 2018 Australian study suggests that mesothelioma patients should aim for at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week.
Swan, F, et al, “CANcer BEhavioural nutrition and exercise feasibility trial (CanBenefit); phase I qualitative interview findings”, October 2020, Journal of Geriatric Oncology, Online ahead of print, https://www.geriatriconcology.net/article/S1879-4068(20)30453-7/fulltext