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Posted on Friday, Jan 27, 2012

Pain Associated with Mesothelioma May be Managed Through Psychosocial Interventions

Mesothelioma is a serious and rare cancer that occurs in individuals that have either inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers.  The cancer is highly aggressive, and is also a very painful disease.  Pain associated with mesothelioma varies from patient to patient and depends on the type of mesothelioma.  The pain typically increases over time and can be acute in many patients requiring prescription narcotics to manage the pain.  Even with the potent drugs, however, pain often persists for the patients.

Now, researchers report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that psychosocial interventions for patients had “medium-size effects” on both pain severity and pain interference in adults with cancer.

Researchers from Columbia University in New York City reviewed studies published between 1966 and 2010 of cancer patients.  The review yielded thirty-seven papers for which measures of pain severity and pain interference could be assessed.  From this information, the authors concluded, “These robust findings support the systematic implementation of quality-controlled psychosocial interventions as part of a multimodal approach to the management of pain in patients with cancer.”

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), the primary psychosocial intervention used to manage pain is cognitive-behavioral therapy.  The therapy typically includes education focusing on explaining how a patient’s feelings can influence the intensity of the pain.  The patient is then shown how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can be used to cope with, and lessen, the pain.  Finally, the patients are shown how to develop a program for managing their pain and how to “overcome setbacks and relapses in their coping efforts.”

Over half of the pleural mesothelioma patients suffer pain in the lower, back and sides of the chest.  Sufferers of peritoneal mesothelioma may experience pain in the abdominal area, whereas pericardial mesothelioma patients experience the most pain with symptoms including chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and constant and acute coughing.  IASP estimates that pain is experienced by 25% of newly diagnosed cancer patients and by 60% to 90% of patients with advanced cancer.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) is conducting a study to learn about how mesothelioma affects patients’ emotional and physical well-being.  To learn more about the MSKCC study entitled “Mesothelioma From a Patient Perspective: A Survey of Psychosocial Needs and Exploration of Online Support for Patients” see ClinicalTrials.gov.

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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 4 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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