Researchers from Italy have created a tool to measure psychological distress in patients with malignant mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It is unique among cancers because of the combination of medical, psychological, social, and legal factors.
The clinical characteristics of mesothelioma can make this disease especially difficult for patients and families. It can take decades for symptoms to appear, and they are often difficult to treat. Because of this, the prognosis usually is not very good for patients.
The fact that asbestos exposure typically occurs at work is also difficult for patients to deal with. Unlike other cancers, mesothelioma patients can blame governments or companies for their disease. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and anger.
Designing a New Tool for the Right Purpose
Researchers designed a questionnaire that uses patient-reported outcome measures to better understand the psychological distress caused by mesothelioma. This type of questionnaire helps doctors to better identify mental health conditions in mesothelioma patients.
For this study, the researchers tested the questionnaire on 149 patients with mesothelioma. About half of this group was male with a median age of 71 years.
The questionnaire is divided into two sections. The first section contains 13 questions. These questions try to measure any negative mental, emotional, and physical reactions. This includes things like nightmares, depression, and nausea.
The second section is seven questions. This section measures feelings and reactions around having been exposed to asbestos at work. This includes the desire to sue for compensation and accountability.
The researchers tested the responses from the 149 patients to see how well the questionnaire measures their psychological distress. They found that the questionnaire does a good job at this and that it could be helpful to doctors and patients with mesothelioma.
When doctors have a better understanding of how their patients are feeling, they can design appropriate treatment plans to help their patients feel more supported. This questionnaire could be a great tool for that after more research in this area.
Guglielmucci F, Bonafede M, Azzolina D, et al. Preliminary validation of a brief PROM assessing psychological distress in patients with malignant mesothelioma: The mesothelioma psychological distress tool—Patients. Front Psychol. 2022;13:974982. Published 2022 Nov 25. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.974982. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9732528/