Toronto Senior Health | November 1, 2015
Guest post from Tim Povtak
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that typically strikes early in retirement after years of occupational exposure to asbestos. It is diagnosed in an estimated 750 people annually in Canada and almost 3,000 in the United States.
Although there still is no definitive cure, recent therapeutic advances are extending lives significantly and raising the importance of a primary caregiver at home.
Instead of the past mesothelioma prognosis of 6-18 months, some patients today are surviving three, four, five or more years after finding a mesothelioma specialty center that uses a multidisciplinary approach to treatment.
Taking care of a loved one with mesothelioma can be a daunting task at times, particularly in the latter stages of the disease. But being a caregiver can also be a richly rewarding experience for a family member if they provided the necessary tools. One tool is having an understanding of the cancer.
Pleural mesothelioma, the most common type of the disease, starts in the thin lining surrounding the lungs. It shows two, three or four decades after the inhalation of the asbestos fibers. Those fibers become lodged in the lining, slowly cause scarring and eventually can lead to cancer cells that begin spreading throughout the thoracic cavity.
Early symptoms may include a persistent dry cough, tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing. Depending upon the effectiveness of therapy, the latter stages can be debilitating, often making the simplest of tasks impossible without a caregiver at home. An uncertain future only adds to the stress.
As a caregiver, you might be dealing with medical and legal professionals, remembering medications and treatments, managing appointments and financial affairs. Feeding and bathing the patient might figure into the mix.
Trying to maintain your own life may be difficult. To improve patient care, there are some important things to remember.
Caregiving can be overwhelming at times, but it also can be a rewarding experience if you know you are improving the quality of life for a mesothelioma patient.