When it comes to coping with the treatment and side effects of a cancer like malignant mesothelioma, looks matter – especially to female patients.
That is the message of a new Italian study on the impact of an “aesthetic care” program for hospitalized cancer patients.
The objective of the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, was to evaluate a support program called “Health in the Mirror”, that provides various “aesthetic interventions” to help cancer patients feel better about their bodies during cancer treatment.
How Does Mesothelioma Change the Body?
Cancer can have a significant impact not only on how patients with mesothelioma or other cancers feel, but also on how they look.
Mesothelioma patients may lose weight. Patients who are experiencing malignant pleural or peritoneal effusion may look or feel bloated. The growth of a mesothelioma tumor and lung fluid accumulation can also make breathing more difficult, causing patients to lose color in their skin.
Treatment, too, can affect appearance. Patients receiving radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy for mesothelioma may lose their hair, eyebrows or eyelashes and may develop rashes or other skin conditions.
Supporting Cancer Patients Through Treatment
But psychology and cancer researchers at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan say these aesthetic changes do not have to negatively affect self-esteem, mood, and psychological well-being, so vital to cancer treatment success.
In their study of 88 female cancer patients, the researchers evaluated the impact of three different appearance-focused group sessions by administering questionnaires before the program, right after it, and three months later.
Among the services included in the program were:
- Wig fitting
- Personalized makeup advice
- Makeovers and photographs
- Skin care instruction
- Massages, pedicures, and manicures
- Fashion advice
- Psychologist-led group discussions and support
Outside Impacts Inside
“Results revealed a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, anxiety and body image issues, as well as an improvement in self-esteem levels,” writes lead researcher Valentina Di Mattei. “This suggests that participating in this program could facilitate better adjustment to disease and treatment.”
The report suggests that patients going through mesothelioma therapy may benefit from more than just medical care to stay strong and feel good throughout treatment; interventions to support psychological well-being may be equally important.
“This study legitimizes the importance of implementing supportive and complementary therapies together with conventional therapies,” write Dr. Di Mattei.
Di Mattei, VE, et al, “‘Health in the Mirror’: An Unconventional Approach to Unmet Psychological Needs in Oncology.”, September 21, 2017, Frontiers in Psychology, eCollection