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Staying Active May Help Mesothelioma Patients Manage Stress

Keeping up with rewarding activities may be one way that mesothelioma patients can keep themselves emotionally healthy during cancer treatment.

A new study from Spain’s University of Oviedo finds that lung and breast cancer patients who stayed engaged in their favorite activities fared better emotionally and socially than patients who abandoned theirs.

Emotional Stress of Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma or another type of cancer can be profoundly stressful. It is not uncommon for patients to give up activities that they previously found rewarding, as they struggle to manage their stress and cope with their new reality.

But research suggests that this can be a mistake. As Concepcion Fernandez-Rodriguez, lead author of the new study, observes in the journal Behavior Modification, “Progressive abandonment of activities in cancer patients are related to depression and worse quality of life.”

Fernandez-Rodriguez and his colleagues suggest that there may be a simple way for patients with cancers like malignant mesothelioma to help ward off cancer-related depression.

Activity May Prevent Depression During Mesothelioma Treatment

When the Spanish researchers enrolled a random sampling of patients with either lung or breast cancer in a program specifically designed to keep them engaged in their chosen activities, they did better, both socially and emotionally.

The program used a behavioral modification technique called behavioral activation (BA), which encourages subjects to “activate their sources of reinforcement and modify the avoidance responses.”

Fifty lung cancer patients and 33 breast cancer patients received BA while 40 other lung cancer patients and 35 breast cancer patients did not. In each session and in follow-ups at 3, 6, and 9 months, all participants completed different assessment scales.

“BA appears to be a practical intervention which may improve social and role functioning and the emotional state of cancer patients during chemotherapy treatment,” concludes the report.

Other Ways of Coping with Mesothelioma-Related Stress

Staying engaged in rewarding activities may be one way for mesothelioma patients to manage their cancer-related anxiety, but it is not the only way.

A Dutch study released earlier this month found that cancer patients who received 2 months of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), including mindfulness practice and teachings on stress, reported much less distress than patients who did not receive the training.

Mesothelioma support groups, including virtual groups managed over the Internet, have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

Mesothelioma survivors like Paul Kraus, the world’s longest-living documented mesothelioma survivor, have also found success managing stress with a healthy diet, a positive outlook, and regular exercise.


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, Epub ahead of print

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