UK researchers say the number of patients receiving palliative care to manage mesothelioma symptoms may be lagging behind the need.
Nottingham University conducted a needs assessment of more than 700 patients over two years. Seventy percent of patients with pleural mesothelioma or another thoracic cancer completed a questionnaire shortly after diagnosis.
Their results revealed a high unmet need for palliation to manage mesothelioma symptoms and those of other thoracic malignancies.
How Does Palliative Care Help Manage Mesothelioma Symptoms?
Palliative care is any kind of care that helps patients manage mesothelioma symptoms. These can be physical symptoms like breathing difficulty or fatigue. Or they can be psychological symptoms like fear and worry.
Palliative care to manage mesothelioma symptoms can include things like medication, support groups, counseling, or even alternative therapies like massage or aromatherapy.
Palliative care may address symptoms of the disease itself or symptoms caused by treatment.
Cough, chest paint, fatigue, and shortness of breath are common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma treatment can cause tiredness, stomach upset, and weight changes.
Measuring the Need: Help to Manage Mesothelioma Symptoms
To assess the effectiveness of palliative care to manage mesothelioma symptoms and other thoracic cancers, the team gave the questionnaire to patients within three to six weeks of diagnosis.
The questionnaire asked patients what symptoms they had and how bothered they were by each one. A total of 738, or 70 percent, of patients completed the questionnaire.
Sixty-eight to 80 percent of patients reported physical symptoms causing them distress.
Sixty-seven percent of patients reported feeling worried about the effects of their disease on others and feeling anxious.
“Despite most patients reporting talking to health professionals about their condition, 20 – 30 percent wanted further information,” says study author Andrew Wilcock.
Palliation Needs High for Thoracic Malignancies
This study represents the largest group of patients ever surveyed on palliative care to manage mesothelioma symptoms with the SPARC questionnaire.
The authors say it illustrates the “high level of need” that cancer hospitals must meet when dealing with mesothelioma patients.
And that need does not stop in the first weeks after diagnosis. Another UK study earlier this year suggests that palliative is just as important in later stages of the disease than it is in the early days.
Wilcock, A, et al, “Holistic Needs of People with Thoracic Cancer Identified by the Sheffield Profile for Assessment and Referral to Care Questionnaire©.”, March 8, 2019, Epub ahead of print, https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jpm.2018.0540
Brims, F, et al, “Early specialist palliative care on quality of life for malignant pleural mesothelioma: a randomised controlled trial”, January 19, 2019, Thorax, Epub ahead of print, https://thorax.bmj.com/content/early/2019/01/18/thoraxjnl-2018-212380