A new UK study on follow-up care for mesothelioma finds that patients need more continuity, timely information, and more input from their caregivers.
The study focused on three National Health Service facilities in the South of England. Two were secondary care hospitals and the third was a tertiary care center. A tertiary care center has special, high-level expertise in mesothelioma care.
Researchers talked to patients, nurses, caregivers, and members of practice groups called clinical commissioning groups. They used the feedback to develop the UK’s first set of best practices for follow-up care for mesothelioma. They now plan to share these best practices with clinicians across the country to improve after-care for all mesothelioma patients.
The Importance of Follow-Up Care for Mesothelioma
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare but virulent cancer triggered by exposure to asbestos. There is no single treatment for mesothelioma. Instead, most patients have some combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Specialized centers may also offer newer treatments like immunotherapy or Tumor Treating Fields.
But mesothelioma care does not end after treatment. Follow-up care for mesothelioma is critical to manage symptoms and to monitor for recurrence. Malignant mesothelioma usually comes back. Finding new tumors early can be the key to longer survival.
Follow-up care for mesothelioma may include any of the following:
- Regular check-ups (every two to three months at first)
- CT, PET scans, or X-rays
- Blood tests
- Check-ins with a nurse
Some side effects can last for a long time after mesothelioma treatment. Some never go away. Follow-up visits and consultations can help patients cope with these and enjoy the best possible quality of life.
A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to After-Care
The authors of the new UK study wanted to find out how patients feel about their follow-up care for mesothelioma. They also wanted to understand these appointments from the standpoint of caregivers and the hospital.
They held discussion groups to get input from the different people involved. Groups included 9 nurses, 11 mesothelioma patients and caregivers, and 15 clinical commissioning group members.
“Recommendations for mesothelioma follow-up care…highlighted the importance of continuity of care, the provision of timely information, and the central role played by mesothelioma specialist nurses, supported by the wider multidisciplinary team,” write authors Zoe Davey and Catherine Henshall with Oxford Brookes University.
Continuity helps keep mesothelioma patients from “falling through the cracks” after treatment. Timeliness ensures they get the help they need when they need it.
Davey and Henshall hope their research will improve care for mesothelioma across the UK, where the per capita rate of mesothelioma is one of the highest in the world. They have developed patient-focused infographics and other information to share best practices with caregivers.
Davey, Z and Henshall, C, “Improving mesothelioma follow-up care in the UK: a qualitative study to build a multidisciplinary pyramid of care approach”, November 10, 2021, BMJ Open, https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/11/e048394