Options When Faced With A Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

By Sally Clapper

Receiving a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma is a heartbreaking and difficult experience for the patient as well as for family and loved ones. It can feel shocking, as if your whole world has been turned upside down. Many feel anger, loss of control, and overwhelm when first told they have a diagnosis of terminal mesothelioma cancer.

Mesothelioma is a cancer primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was well known for being durable, fire resistant, and a superb, multi-purposed insulator. Because of these properties, and its affordability and availability, asbestos was used in many commercial, manufacturing and industrial products, causing many people to be exposed occupationally as well as environmentally.

When asbestos is released into the air, it can be inhaled or ingested, causing serious lung diseases and cancers. When asbestos becomes lodged in the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen, mesothelioma develops and currently there is no known cure. Because of a long latency period between time of first exposure and development of the cancer, mesothelioma often is not diagnosed until twenty to fifty years after first exposure.

Despite improvement in diagnostic methods and increased knowledge about mesothelioma, symptoms are difficult to diagnose and often the terminal cancer is not diagnosed until it has reached advanced stages. Most patients diagnosed with mesothelioma have a short life expectancy, although research into new drugs and treatments holds promise of lengthening survival times and quality of life.

For anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma, as well as their loved ones, facing a diagnosis of terminal mesothelioma can be daunting and heartbreaking. Initially, many will have feelings of shock, anger, sadness, and denial. Some will eventually come to terms with the fact they have a terminal cancer, while others will resist accepting the reality of their diagnosis. A variety of emotions and questions will arise as end of life concerns are explored and discussed.

There are some things that can help to cope better and feel some sense of control during the time of initial diagnosis.

1. Create a Circle of Support: Family, friends, medical team members, clergy, and palliative and hospice care workers can all offer support. It is most helpful if there is someone within that network of support that you feel you can discuss concerns and fears over having terminal cancer and facing death. Find the courage to ask for what you need and to speak up about your wishes. Limit time with people who drain your energy or cause you anxiety or stress, and increase time with those that are loving and caring. Avail yourself of hospice and palliative care as research shows this can greatly help with pain management, increase overall quality of life and increase end of life treatment and care options.

2. Find support: build a network of support, including not only friends and family, but also doctors, specialists, palliative and hospice care, etc. Make sure to include someone you can talk to about your concerns and fears about your cancer and death and dying. People who can offer emotional, physical, and spiritual support will be needed. Surround yourself with those that can show compassion and be helpful, and avoid those that can be emotionally draining or cause upset or anxiety. Do not be afraid to ask for exactly what you need and communicate that to those caring for you. Also, learn about hospice and palliative care, both of which will give you more choice about how and where you will spend your remaining time and greatly increase your quality of life on all levels.

3. Learn about your sources of medical benefits and legal compensation: Know your medical and health benefits and what is covered by your insurance. Also, anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma should consult with an experienced asbestos attorney to receive additional financial compensation to help with loss of wages and treatment costs. Manufacturers knew of the dangers of asbestos since at least the early 1960's if not before and yet failed to warn or protect workers and the public from exposure and illness. A mesothelioma attorney who specializes in filing asbestos lawsuits will be able to help you identify the source of your exposure and be successful in maximizing your financial recovery.

4. Join a local or online support group: In some areas, hospitals have support groups that meet at their facility. There are also national and on-line support groups that can provide many helpful resources. Talking with others who are going through the same experience can help you communicate any concerns and gain information.

5. Nurture yourself and relationships with family and friends: You and your loved ones can benefit from spending time together during such rough times. For many, this is the time to talk about the past, healing and celebrating past times together. Talking about fond and happy times of the past can decrease pain and stress and ease anxiety and fear.

Many will come to accept that despite clinical trials and new treatment options, the best that can be hoped for is extended survival time and improved quality of life since mesothelioma is an incurable disease. Mesothelioma patients and their families who take the steps above can realize that although they may not be able to change the diagnosis of mesothelioma, they can have choice around how to treat the illness and move forward in ways that make a positive difference.

For more information, call toll free 1-800-440-4262. - 30540

About the Author:

Sign Up for our Free Newsletter

Enter email address here