Living with pleural mesothelioma
Life with a mesothelioma diagnosis can present many challenges. Take some time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a daily routine that suits you and the symptoms you’re coping with. You are likely to feel a range of emotions about having mesothelioma, including fear, sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration, and loss and grief.
Because mesothelioma is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, treatment may be ongoing and it may be hard to accept that life won’t return to normal. Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people with a similar diagnosis, and provide you with information about managing the emotional and practical impacts.
- Dealing with feelings of sadness
- Looking after yourself
- Eating well
- Staying active
- Complementary therapies
- Work and money
- Contraception and fertility
- Ongoing management
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.
Talk to your GP, as counselling or medicine – even for a short time – may help. Some people can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Cancer Council may also run a counselling program in your area.
Dealing with cancer can cause physical and emotional strain, so it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Cancer Council has free booklets and programs to help you during and after treatment. To find out more, call 13 11 20, or explore our website.
Healthy food can help you cope with treatment and side effects. A dietitian can explain how to manage any special dietary needs or eating problems and choose the best foods for your situation.
For more on this, see Nutrition and cancer.
Physical activity can reduce tiredness, improve circulation and lift mood. The right exercise for you depends on what you are used to, how you feel, and your doctor’s advice.
For more on this, see Exercise after a cancer diagnosis.
Complementary therapies are designed to be used alongside conventional medical treatments. Therapies such as massage, relaxation and acupuncture can increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. Let your doctor know about any therapies you are using or thinking about trying, as some may not be safe or evidence-based.
For more on this, see Complementary therapies.
|Alternative therapies are therapies used instead of conventional medical treatments. These are unlikely to be scientifically tested and may prevent successful treatment of the cancer. Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies as a cancer treatment.|
Cancer can change your financial situation, especially if you have extra medical expenses or need to stop working. Getting professional financial advice and talking to your employer can give you peace of mind. You can also check with a social worker or Cancer Council whether any financial assistance is available to you.
Having cancer can affect your relationships with family, friends and colleagues in different ways. Cancer is stressful, tiring and upsetting, and this may strain relationships. It may also result in positive changes to your values, priorities or outlook on life. Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening, and do the same for those around you. It may help to discuss your feelings with each other.
For more on this, see Emotions and cancer.
Cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors, such as treatment and side effects, your self-confidence, and if you have a partner. Although sexual intercourse may not always be possible, closeness and sharing can still be part of your relationship.
For more on this, see Sexuality, intimacy and cancer.
If you can have sex, you may need to use certain types of contraception to protect your partner or avoid pregnancy for a time. Your doctor will explain what precautions to take. They will also tell you if treatment will affect your fertility permanently or temporarily. If having children is important to you, talk to your doctor before starting treatment.
For more on this, see Fertility and cancer.
As management of symptoms and treatment for mesothelioma are likely to be ongoing, you will have regular check-ups to monitor your health. Everyone is different, so your doctor will decide how often you need check-ups, but it’s usually every 6–8 weeks.
During check-up appointments, your doctor will do a physical examination and may also arrange a CT scan to see how active the mesothelioma is. What other tests you have, and who you see and where, will depend on your health and the type of treatment you’ve had. At your check-ups, you will also be able to discuss how you’re feeling and mention any concerns you may have.
If you live a long way from the hospital or treatment centre, you may be able to arrange for some of the tests to be done by your GP or the specialist who referred you for major treatment.
Between appointments, if you notice any change in your symptoms or you experience side effects from treatment, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait until the next scheduled appointment.
A/Prof Brian McCaughan, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Theodora Ahilas, Principal Lawyer, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, NSW; Prof David Ball, Director, Lung Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Shirley Bare, Consumer; Cassandra Dickens, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Care Coordinator – Thoracic Malignancies, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Penny Jacomos, Social Worker, Asbestos Diseases Society of South Australia, SA; A/Prof Thomas John, Medical Oncologist, Senior Clinical Research Fellow, Austin Health, and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, VIC; Victoria Keena, Executive Officer, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, NSW; Penny Lefeuvre, Consumer; Jocelyn McLean, Mesothelioma Support Coordinator, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, NSW; Prof David Morris, Peritonectomy Surgeon, St George Hospital and University of New South Wales, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Western Australia; Prof Anna Nowak, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, The University of Western Australia, WA; Prof Jennifer Philip, Palliative Care Specialist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne Hospital, VIC; Nicole Taylor, Acting Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Cancer Specialist Nurse, The Canberra Hospital, ACT. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. Previous editions of this title and related resources were funded in part by the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities and a donation from Lyall Watts.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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