Every mesothelioma sufferer feels it, but there is very little data on emotional stress in mesothelioma patients and asbestos-exposed people.
That is the conclusion of a group of Italian researchers earlier this year. The study is important to revisit during the holidays when mesothelioma patients may feel pressured to be cheerful.
According to the Italian team, mesothelioma sufferers and asbestos-exposed people have some special emotional needs.
The few studies that exist on the subject suggest that denying these problems may make people sicker.
Studying the Studies
The team found 12 studies published between 1980 and 2016 on stress in mesothelioma patients. The number of papers on the emotional needs of asbestos-exposed people was even lower. There were only nine of these studies.
One of the reasons why there are so few studies on mesothelioma stress is the small number of mesothelioma patients. In the US, the asbestos cancer impacts 2,500 people every year, making it one of the rarest types of cancer.
The grim prognosis associated with mesothelioma can lead to extra stress – especially during the holidays.
Analyzing Stress in Mesothelioma Patients
Most mesothelioma patients are men and most of them got sick because they were exposed to asbestos at work.
Many industries exposed people to mesothelioma-causing asbestos. Workers in plumbing, electrical work, construction, manufacturing, and mining were sometimes exposed. Other people encountered asbestos because they lived near a mine or they handled contaminated work clothes.
This alone sets malignant mesothelioma apart from many other cancers. It can also contribute to the feelings of anger and resentment that lead to stress in mesothelioma patients.
The study suggests that asbestos-exposed people can also have high levels of “psychological distress, despair, and mental health difficulties.”
Addressing Mental Health Challenges
The papers reviewed for the new study reveal some common problems among people with mesothelioma. They highlight why is it important not to ignore these problems, even during the holidays.
Some of the key findings include:
- Mesothelioma diagnosis can lead to anxiety and depression, shock, concentration problems, anger and social problems.
- When stress in mesothelioma patients is avoided or denied, patients can develop fever and loss of appetite. It can even make pain worse.
- People who knew they had been exposed to asbestos but had not developed mesothelioma had their own set of problems. These patients faced depression and anxiety, but also fear over the risk for developing mesothelioma.
- Some of these asbestos-exposed people even showed signs of post-traumatic stress-type conditions.
But there is hope. When mesothelioma patients and asbestos-exposed people get the support they need, they cope better.
The study found asbestos-exposed people did best when they took care of themselves physically with diet and exercise. Having access to legal information and support groups also helped.
Palliative care for pain improved stress in mesothelioma patients.
Bonafede, M, et al, “The psychological distress and care needs of mesothelioma patients and asbestos-exposed subjects: A systematic review of published studies”, May 2018, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ajim.22831