A new study suggests that even the healthiest patients have a lower quality of life with mesothelioma than they should. That is because they tend to have many symptoms and needs that are not being met.
Researchers at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Western Australia ran the study. They used data from the RESPECT-Meso trial. RESPECT-Meso was a multicenter, randomized study to measure the impact of early palliative care on quality of life with mesothelioma. Australia has one of the highest per capita rates of malignant mesothelioma in the world.
Researchers found that the high symptom burden of this cancer is a big problem for patients. Many also said they were not getting the information they need from their doctors.
What Impacts Quality of Life with Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma is a lung-related cancer. It starts on the lining around the lungs and can spread to the lungs and other parts of the chest. It is usually caused by asbestos exposure.
It can take many years for mesothelioma to start. Once it does, tumors usually grow quickly. They often cause symptoms that impact quality of life with mesothelioma. Many people develop problems like chest pain, coughing and fatigue. Psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression are also common.
Managing symptoms with the help of a palliative medicine specialist can help improve quality of life with mesothelioma. But symptom management is not the only thing these patients need.
Mesothelioma Symptoms and Unmet Needs
The study included 261 patients who received a mesothelioma diagnosis within the past six weeks. Patients could not have any other major physical or psychological problems.
The study used different types of questionnaires about the quality of life with mesothelioma. Patients were randomly chosen to receive palliative care or not.
Seventy percent of participants had at least three mesothelioma symptoms. The most common one was fatigue, followed by shortness of breath, pain, and weight loss. More than half of patients said they had anxiety and/or low mood. Almost half said nothing brought them pleasure anymore.
Many patients said they wanted more help than they were getting from their healthcare team. The researchers write, “Unmet needs were common: 25.9% wanted more information about their condition, 24.7% about their care, and 21.2% about their treatment. 79.1% were concerned about the effect of their illness on family.”
QoL and Mesothelioma Survival
These problems had an impact on survival. Patients who had the worst quality of life with mesothelioma died sooner.
The research team concludes that even mesothelioma patients with good baseline health did not enjoy life as much as they should. Since poor quality of life can lead to poor survival, the team says there is a need for better communication and information sharing between doctors and patients.
Mesothelioma affects about 2,500 people in the US each year. Most victims worked in an industry that used asbestos.
Hoon, SN, “Symptom Burden and Unmet Needs in MPM: Exploratory Analyses From the RESPECT-Meso Study”, August 14, 2020, Journal of Palliative Care, Epub ahead of print, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0825859720948975