Most newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients need more psychosocial support than they are getting, according to a British sociologist.
Sara Arber is a professor in the University of Surrey’s School of Health and Social Care in Surrey, England. To conduct a study on the psychological and social impact of a mesothelioma diagnosis, Arber and colleague L. Spencer conducted face-to-face interviews with 10 mesothelioma patients within three months of their diagnoses.
After analyzing the data, the two concluded that many newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients feel uncertainty and a lack of control surrounding their illness, leading to what they call “emotional, physical and psychosocial” distress. They report that mesothelioma patients they talked to tended to feel like they were hearing “all bad news” from their healthcare professionals. Although patients were concentrating on the treatment strategies in the short term, they also reported being worried about the long-term outcome of their illness and how quickly their health might deteriorate.
Their worries are not unfounded. Even with the best available treatments, mesothelioma typically progresses quickly and many patients do not survive longer than 12 months from the time of diagnosis. However, mesothelioma treatments are improving. Most patients are now treated using a multi-modality approach which may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Promising new experimental treatments such as biological therapy and immunotherapy have also shown promise.
But that promise may not be adequately communicated to patients, according to Arber and Spencer. They conclude that “Patients receive insufficient psychosocial support during the first 3 months following diagnosis.” They suggest that healthcare providers refer newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients to palliative care earlier. Palliative care can provide support for mesothelioma patients to cope with both the physical and psychological aspects of their illness, regardless of their prognosis.
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Arber and Spencer, “’It’s all bad news’: the first 3 months following a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma”, August 18, 2012, Psycho-oncology, Epub ahead of print.