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Living With Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is usually diagnosed when the disease is advanced enough to cause symptoms. While treatments aimed at curing the disease are limited, most of these symptoms can be effectively managed to improve quality of life.

What to Expect

Shortness of breath is a common problem that interferes with quality of life in patients with mesothelioma. Depending on individual factors, shortness of breath may be addressed by removing fluid from the pleural space with a needle, placement of a drain, or sometimes surgery. Oxygen and narcotics like morphine may also improve shortness of breath.

There may be severe pain caused by progression of the cancer into the chest wall and nerve fibers, which may also lead to poor sleep. Pain is usually treated with medications, either orally, with a patch, or intravenously. Poor nutrition and fatigue are often present because of appetite loss, nausea, progression of the cancer or chemotherapy.

Palliative care to control these distressing symptoms is a key component of the multidisciplinary care of patients with mesothelioma. Physicians specialized in the palliative management of patients with mesothelioma could be of great value in treating symptoms and assisting patients and their loved ones about make plans for the end of life. They should become part of the team as soon as possible after the diagnosis is established.

Finding Support

Being diagnosed with mesothelioma is a life-changing event with emotional, physical, familial, and, often, financial consequences. It is very important to establish strong relationships with a team of experts able to provide support and guidance in all aspects of the management of mesothelioma.

The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community to connect with others facing this disease. You can also call the Lung Association's Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with additional support.

Additional resource:

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated mesothelioma care, research and education and is a useful resource for patients and their family members.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Last updated April 4, 2018.

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