Home-Based Rehab Helps Mesothelioma Patients Bounce Back After Chemotherapy

New evidence suggests that a pulmonary rehabilitation program that comes to them might help patients recover after pleural mesothelioma treatment.

Experts in pulmonary cancers at several French institutions recently published what they called a “real-life feasibility study” of home-based rehab in patients who had received chemotherapy for either lung cancer or malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Previous research has shown that these patients are typically less physically active and experience a lower quality of life as a result of the cancer and/or the treatment.

Managing Mesothelioma Rehabilitation at Home

In the new French study, patients who had undergone chemotherapy for lung cancer or pleural mesothelioma were screened to see if they would be good candidates for a rehabilitation program offered in their homes. A total of 243 patients were considered eligible, but only 71 elected to participate.

The program included exercise training as well as education about their therapy and recovery and “psychosocial” management to help patients cope with the mental and relational stresses that can accompany mesothelioma treatment.

Mesothelioma patients were also led through a series of exercise tolerance tests, including a 6-minute walk test and a 6-minute stepper test. The baseline walking distance was found to be related to overall health and shortness of breath, but not to cancer stage.

The “feasibility and safety” of the program were evaluated based on how diligent the participants were at attending the sessions and adhering to the program and whether or not their activity and/or quality of life improved.

Program Deemed “Feasible and Safe” for Mesothelioma Patients

Although fewer than a third of the eligible patients chose to participate in the home-based pulmonary rehabilitation program—and even fewer (47) completed it—mesothelioma patients who did fully participate saw improvement in both their activity levels and their anxiety.

None of the mesothelioma patients experienced any negative side effects from participating in the program and most also showed improvement in their 6-minute walk and stepper tests.

The researchers conclude that pulmonary rehabilitation offered at home “might be beneficial” for improving both health and quality of life after mesothelioma treatment, but that further studies are warranted.

Movement Speeds Recovery After Mesothelioma Treatment

Whether or not they engage in a formal pulmonary rehabilitation program, cancer doctors typically recommend that mesothelioma patients get regular exercise to counter the fatigue, muscle weakness, and decreased quality of life that can accompany treatment. All of these symptoms can worsen when patients are sedentary.

Because shortness of breath (dyspnea) and fatigue are common in people undergoing treatment for mesothelioma, patients are advised to stay active by engaging in low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, gentle yoga, or Tai chi.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends 30 minutes of activity, five days a week for people with mesothelioma and other types of cancer.

Sources:

Oliver, C, et al, “Real-life feasibility of home-based pulmonary rehabilitation in chemotherapy-treated patients with thoracic cancers: a pilot study”, February 13, 2017, BMC Cancer

“Exercise During Cancer Treatment”, Patients and Caregiver Resources, National Comprehensive Cancer Network

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