One of the most dispiriting aspects of a mesothelioma diagnosis is the almost relentless pain that comes from both the disease itself and as a side effect of the treatment meant to extend the patient’s life. This has made pain relief a primary focus of mesothelioma caregivers. Though many turn to medication as an answer, there are a number of alternative approaches that have shown great impact and have provided relief. In some cases these approaches can stand alone, and in others they are offered as complementary interventions. The goal in all cases is to improve mesothelioma patients’ quality of life.
The determination as to what approach is best always relies upon an assessment of the patient’s pain severity. In some instances the best approach is to use radiation therapy, chemotherapy, nerve blocks or hormones specifically as a palliative approach. Other methods that have proven effective have included the introduction of relaxation techniques that include deep breathing and imagery. Mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation techniques have proven to be highly effective and improving physical function, pain and emotional well being. The specifics of mindfulness-based stress reduction include sitting meditation, silent body scanning and simple yoga postures as well as positive visualizations to substitute for the feeling of pain.
Though some may doubt the effectiveness of mindfulness based stress reduction, studies have shown that it has a real impact on cancer-related pain, effectively interrupting what is known as the pain/muscle tension/anxiety cycle. In some cases the technique works so well that it has resulted in a decrease need for pain medication. It also has the important effect of providing the patient with a greater sense of control and power over what is happening with their body.
Exercise is another approach that has been effective at pain relief, in large part because much of cancer-related pain is caused by physical inactivity and an eventual loss of function. When a patient stops moving, they lose muscle strength. This eventually can lead to reduced self reliance and an inability to cope with every day tasks. An appropriate, physician-supervised exercise regimen can have a powerful impact on pain relief, can improve strength and endurance, and elevated sense of self worth.