A virtual support group may help mesothelioma patients and families cope with the stress of fighting cancer during the pandemic.
Virtual groups give patients and their families a place to find emotional support and information when it may not be safe to meet in person.
Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston is just one of the many hospitals turning to online meetings for mesothelioma patients. The International Mesothelioma Program began holding monthly meetings via Zoom in September.
Multiple studies show support groups can help patients and families enjoy a better quality of life with mesothelioma during and after cancer treatment. Many hope that a virtual support group can help mesothelioma patients connect, even if they cannot get together in person.
Isolation & Lack of Information Create Stress
Malignant mesothelioma is one of the rarest types of cancer. Many people have never even heard of ‘asbestos cancer’ until they receive the diagnosis. Most do not know anyone else who has it. It is common for mesothelioma patients and their families to feel isolated. Social distancing to protect themselves against COVID-19 compounds the problem.
Lack of information is another problem for mesothelioma patients and families. An Australian study found most mesothelioma patients want more information than they get from their doctors.
A virtual support group can address both issues. Research suggests that meeting online is a safe way for mesothelioma patients to share support and information. A virtual group can also be bigger than an in-person group since most hospitals only have a handful of mesothelioma patients.
The Mesothelioma Survival Project released in 2017 included nearly 500 patients. Participants were invited to attend weekly sessions online or on the phone for six weeks. A counselor moderated the sessions. Patients who attended consistently gave high marks to the virtual support group concept.
Finding a Virtual Support Group
A virtual support group allows limitless space for mesothelioma patients and families under stress. If no local group is avilable, there are many new options.
At the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham & Women’s a licensed clinical social worker and a board-certified chaplain co-lead a monthly online group via Zoom. The group meets on a Sunday evening from 7 to 8 pm, Eastern Time. The next meeting is scheduled for October 18. Among the topics planned are COVID-19, health and nutrition, recovery after surgery, medical research, and meditation.
The Meso-Connect program through the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is another virtual support group open to all patients and families. Patients can attend regardless of when they were diagnosed or where they live. The Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation also recently announced a private Facebook group for mesothelioma patients.
Although it is not specific to mesothelioma, The American Cancer Society offers a virtual support group called WhatNext.
The American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/
The International Mesothelioma Program, https://impmeso.org/
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, Meso-Connect, https://www.curemeso.org/mesothelioma-treatment-plan/patient-support-and-resources/meso-connect-peer-to-peer-support/
The Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation, https://www.cmfonline.org/cmf-announces-new-online-mesothelioma-support-group