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Mesothelioma Doctors Urged to Sharpen Their Communication Skills

mesothelioma doctors communicate with patients

A Japanese study suggests that some mesothelioma doctors are falling short when it comes to communicating with their patients.

The study was based on quality-of-life surveys of seventy-three pleural mesothelioma patients. Patients answered two open-ended questions about their care experience.

The researchers say most concerns had to do with communication. Many patients said they wanted clearer explanations and more empathy from their mesothelioma doctors.

Unique Challenges of Malignant Mesothelioma

Coping with any type of cancer can be stressful and confusing. But mesothelioma presents some special challenges to both patients and mesothelioma doctors.  

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and complex malignancy with a poor prognosis. No single treatment is likely to help. On top of this, mesothelioma symptoms such as pain and shortness of breath can add to the anxiety and stress.

Mesothelioma doctors typically recommend a combination of therapies. Multi-modality therapy may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, and/or surgery. The order of the different therapies can vary greatly.

Patients Want Empathy from Mesothelioma Doctors

The study found that mesothelioma patients sometimes did not fully understand their diagnosis. Many were also confused about their treatment options.

They also wanted their mesothelioma doctors to accept and empathize with their anxiety and pain. Some said there was not enough medical support for mesothelioma patients.

“Patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma had a variety of unmet needs from their physicians,” writes study author Yasuko Nagamatsu of St. Luke’s International University in Tokyo. “Physicians who provide care to MPM patients should receive training in both communication skills and stress management.”

The team says mesothelioma doctors should be part of multidisciplinary care systems. These should include respiratory and palliative care for pleural mesothelioma patients.

Activity May Help Mesothelioma Patients Cope with Stress

Besides empathetic mesothelioma doctors, research shows that patients also benefit from staying active.

A 2017 study in the journal Behavior Modification found that mesothelioma patients who give up activities they used to love are more prone to depression and worse quality-of-life.

Cancer patients who enrolled cancer patients in a program designed to keep them engaged in their activities did better, both socially and emotionally.

Research shows mindfulness-based tools and support groups may also benefit patients. Support groups can also help patients clarify what their mesothelioma doctors tell them.


Nagamatsu, Y, “Physician requests by patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma in Japan”, April 25, 2019, BMC Cancer, pp. 383, https://bmccancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12885-019-5591-7

Fernandez-Rodriguez, C, et al, “Effects of Behavioral Activation on the Quality of Life and Emotional State of Lung Cancer and Breast Cancer Patients During Chemotherapy Treatment”, December 1, 2017, Behavior Modification

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