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Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that can be treated. While most mesothelioma treatments are effective, some of them have side effects. Most side effects associated with mesothelioma treatments result from surgery or similar treatment. These effects are experienced a few days or weeks after the surgery. Pain is one of the long-lasting side effects of mesothelioma treatment. You will likely experience pain at the incision point after undergoing chest surgery. Even though this pain might last only a few weeks in some patients, some complain of a lasting pain that is hard to manage. If you experience such pain after surgery, you will be given effective medication to help you manage the pain from home. This works in most mesothelioma patients as they recover from the disease.
Depending on your discomfort after mesothelioma treatment, your doctor will discuss with you and find efficient medications to help you handle the discomfort. You will also have other pain-relieving adjustments to work with the medication. When dealing with pain caused by mesothelioma treatment, you should involve a pain specialist for the best outcome. Get the help of a pain specialist, especially in cases where the pain is becoming more chronic for your liking. When you manage the pain caused by the treatment, you will have a better quality of life free from numerous distractions. Besides, you will have an improved ability to fight against mesothelioma.
Generally, radiation and chemotherapy are the two common methods of treating mesothelioma. They work to destroy the cancer cells leading to mesothelioma. While these treatment methods aim to kill cancer cells, they also damage normal cells. Normal cells that develop more rapidly are the ones mainly affected by radiation and chemo. Thankfully, normal cells recover quality after being damaged. This means the negative effects of mesothelioma treatment will disappear shortly after you stop the treatment. While most of the negative effects of mesothelioma testaments disappear a few weeks or months after you stop taking them, the length of time it takes for a patient to feel better varies from one person to another. In most cases, the side effects will disappear quickly after you stop the treatment, but it might take several months or years for them to recede completely. If you are having difficulty managing the mesothelioma treatment side effects, you should discuss it with your doctor. Let them know what you are experiencing and how they can help you overcome it.
Some patients don’t like raising concerns about mesothelioma treatment’s side effects because they fear their treatment might be discontinued. Let the doctor know of any challenges you are having because they might have other viable solutions. They will prescribe medications to help reduce the side effects and give you a better experience. Alternatively, they might change the current treatment method and go for one with little to no side effects. You should also let the doctor know what you are experiencing, especially if it makes you extremely uncomfortable. Working as a team with your doctor will help them find the best solutions in your fight against mesothelioma. Besides, speaking out is beneficial for your well-being and safety. You are encouraged to be honest about how you feel because some side effects can cause permanent damage to your body. This can easily be prevented.
Chemo treatment has various lasting effects on your body. In some cases, mesothelioma patients experience permanent damage to the kidneys, lungs, or heart, depending on the type of chemotherapy they are exposed to. It also depends on how the patient’s body reacts to the treatment. As later discussed in this guide, a specific side effect of chemo, peripheral neuropathy, might cause challenges with gait or balance. It might also make it difficult to manipulate or pick up objects. Thankfully, peripheral neuropathy symptoms will improve shortly after you stop chemotherapy. While these effects might reduce, they might not totally disappear. All these depend on how your body reacts to the mesothelioma treatment.
Understanding the Long-term Effects of Mesothelioma Treatment
People battling mesothelioma and other forms of cancer often undergo aggressive treatments that could have long-term side effects. While most of these treatments are effective and help prolong life expectancy, they have effects that could permanently affect your life. You will experience different side effects depending on your body’s reaction and the type of treatment you are exposed to. Given that you are likely to experience side effects, you are encouraged to be in close contact with your doctor and update them every step of the way. Thanks to their experience in the field, they will recommend effective methods to help you manage side effects. Besides, they can recommend lifestyle changes and things you can do to cope with mesothelioma treatment side effects.
Some of the common side effects of mesothelioma treatment include;
Also referred to as cognitive impairment or cognitive dysfunction, chemo brain is one of the long-term side effects of mesothelioma treatment. It is also one of the most common side effects mesothelioma patients experience during treatment. If you have a chemo brain, you might have difficulty remembering things after undergoing chemotherapy. Other forms of treatment like radiation could have the same effects on a mesothelioma patient. While chemo brain might not be experienced in all patients, it is very common among a specific group of patients. Besides, several factors contribute to the likelihood of having cognitive impairment after chemotherapy. Some include nutrition, age, infection, or other underlying illnesses. Patients undergoing two or three different mesothelioma treatments at a go could also develop chemo brain.
The effects of cognitive impairment vary from one patient to another. Some patients have difficulty multitasking or concentrating, forgetting common words, taking longer to complete the simplest of tasks, and memory lapses. When you start experiencing these effects, the time it will take to recover from them depends on your overall health. How long the chemo brain lasts varies widely in mesothelioma patients. While some patients might experience short-term cognitive impairment, some might have long-lasting effects that could take years to heal. It is crucial to know that there is no specific treatment for chemo brain. However, doctors recommend various methods you can apply to help combat the effects of cognitive impairment. Most of these methods are DIY and will need little to no supervisor from your doctor.
Here are some of the practices you can employ to help combat the effects of chemo brain.
- Keeping a Routine: You can reduce the effects of chemo brain by keeping a routine. Following a simple daily routine will help you address everything that needs to get done without feeling or getting overwhelmed. It is also a simple way of keeping your memory in good shape and alert. Given that multitasking can be a challenge for mesothelioma patients with chemo brains, coming up with a simple routine will help them improve their focus. With a daily routine, you will focus on one task at a time hence improving concentration.
- Use a Detailed Daily List or Planner: You should keep track of all the important dates and appointments, helpful websites, contacts, and notes from meetings you attend with your doctor. Doing so will help you know all the important details without forgetting them. You are encouraged to keep them in places you can easily access and remind yourself. When listing important things, you should use language or wording you understand. For example, you can use initials or coded words that will be easier for your mind to process. This is beneficial because your brain needs help to process data. Remember that being detained is the key to effectiveness.
- Keep Track of Memory Problems: Apart from keeping a planner, mesothelioma patients with chemo brain should keep track of all the cognitive impairment problems they are currently experiencing. By writing down the medications you have taken and the events going on, you can help identify where your memory problems are coming from. Besides, you will be encouraged to remember more details that could be vital in helping you get over the condition.
- Exercise Your Mind and Body: You can also get past cognitive impairment by exercising your body and mind. An improved and healthy lifestyle will help mesothelioma patients recover from the long-lasting effects of cognitive impairment. A nutrition plan and a cancer diet combined with physical exercises can combat fatigue, improve your mood and enhance your focus. You are also encouraged to take time and engage in activities that exercise your mind. For instance, you can engage in crossword puzzles or similar brainteasers. Alternatively, you can take a new class to help improve your memory and focus. Doing so will help you get over chemo brain efficiently.
- Asking for Help: We all need help sometimes, especially when dealing with cognitive impairment. Since chemo brain is common among mesothelioma patients, some patients ignore the side effects and fail to speak of the challenges they are experiencing. They fail to tell their doctor or loved ones about the memory lapses and other effects of mesothelioma treatment. That shouldn’t be the case. If you have a chemo brain, you can ask your friends and family to help with daily tasks while you slow down a little. Getting a helping hand will allow you to focus on one task at a time and put your mind at ease. You should communicate with your doctor about any cognitive changes and side effects you are experiencing. This will ensure you get the right treatment you need to lead a better and healthier life. In recent years, experts have been working on clinical trials around chemo brain to try and discover the best treatment. This means there is hope for an effective drug to fix cognitive impairment among mesothelioma patients.
Also known as alopecia, hair loss is a common side effect of mesothelioma and other cancer treatments. Given that chemotherapy has high levels of toxicity, mesothelioma patients tend to experience hair thinning at the start of treatment and eventually hair loss as the side effects worsen. Hair loss occurs because chemotherapy damages both the cancerous and healthy cells, including those responsible for hair growth. Chemo treatment can cause total or partial hair loss all over the body including eyebrows, scalp, body hair, and eyelashes. Besides, some of the medications effective in treating mesothelioma like pemetrexed and most immunotherapies often result in loss of hair. While hair loss could be a long-term effect in some patients, it is only a temporary side effect in most mesothelioma patients.
You will start experiencing hair loss within a few weeks of treatment, and it will start getting worse after four weeks to two months of radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Hair falls out during brushing or washing, or sometimes it comes out in clumps as the side effects become rapid. While hair loss as a side effect of mesothelioma treatment isn’t completely preventable, there are several things you can do to manage it. For example, you should try to brush or wash your hair more gently and less frequently to help maintain more of your hair. This will also help prevent it from breaking. While these control measures might work, there aren’t any known treatments to combat hair loss due to mesothelioma treatment. If you know you are about to start your mesothelioma treatment, you should consult your doctor and ask them about the effective methods of hair loss. Patients are encouraged to shave their hair before starting treatment.
You can also spend time finding head coverings or wigs that you can wear to maintain your appearance. You should check your health insurance before purchasing a wig because some plans will fully or partially pay for a wig. This comes from the prescription for “cranial prosthesis.” It might take time for Mesothelioma patients to get used to the feeling of wearing a head covering or wig. This shouldn’t bother you because you will get used to it after some time. The most important thing is keeping soft surfaces on the scalp. This is the case because they might become irritated easily or feel sensitive. When you are not wearing a head covering, you should put on sunscreen to protect your skin. Sunscreens protect against the effects of excessive heat and the discomfort that comes with it.
Though they are not common, sleep disorders are one of the long-term effects of mesothelioma treatment. Enough sleep is crucial for your mental and physical health, especially if you are battling mesothelioma. Those with malignant mesothelioma need a proper night’s sleep to help combat the side effects of its treatment. Sleeping also helps you cope with the aggressive treatment plan that is necessary for your well-being. Research shows that about half of mesothelioma patients experience sleeping problems due to mesothelioma treatment. Sleep disorders also arise from the physical changes that come with the condition, stress, and anxiety of having the disease and being in the hospital most of the time.
While sleep disorders are short-term in most patients, some might have problems getting past them over a long time. Chemo drugs, especially hormone therapy, antimetabolites, and other drugs meant to manage symptoms of mesothelioma, can cause sleeplessness. Using these drugs could see you struggle to get sleep at night. With a severe case of sleeping problems among mesothelioma patients, many cancer centers have established sleep centers to find ways of coping with the side effects. Significant efforts have been dedicated to helping mesothelioma patients find the best remedy for sleep disorders, including medication. Exposure to chemotherapy and radiation therapy could also have similar effects on cancer patients.
If you have sleep disorders due to mesothelioma treatment, you will undergo regular assessments to evaluate the severity of the condition and other symptoms. During the assessment, a physical exam will be done to determine a wide range of things, including diet and exercise, medicines being taken, full medical history, and your daily routines. In some cases, patients might also undergo a polysomnogram — a sleep study that consists of various tests. These tests are meant to help identify the specific causes of your sleep problems. Besides, the study might include observing blood pressure, eye movements, brain wave changes, breathing rate, and heart rate. These factors also help point out the causes of your disorder.
If you have sleep disorders, you will also need supportive care. Supportive care will help you get past the psychological effects of mesothelioma treatment and regain your sleeping schedule. Cognitive behavioral therapy might also be effective for patients because it helps them avoid stress and anxiety that could affect their sleep. Apart from therapy, daily aerobic exercises could be beneficial. Simple exercises like walking or jogging could help mesothelioma patients maintain a healthy sleep routine. Sleep experts also recommend a nighttime routine that makes it easier for you to sleep. Some of the habits include eating high-protein snacks, regular bladder habits, and avoiding caffeine or naps later in the day. If possible, you can also incorporate sleep medication into your routine. This helps you fall asleep faster.