Managing Chronic Pain While Living with Mesothelioma

Managing Chronic Pain While Living with Mesothelioma

By Virgil Anderson

Editor’s Note: Cancer pain concerns millions of American’s each year.  Virgil Anderson submitted this article regarding Mesothelioma and chronic pain, we found it relevant to share information on a cancer that many know by name, but don’t often associate with chronic pain.  The author suffers from chronic pain associated with Mesothelioma – a disease diagnosed over 3,000 times each year in the US, claiming 2,500 lives each year.

Pain is one of the most common complaints of people living with mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Among the many mesothelioma symptoms, pain is both chronic and can be severe. The pain may come from the cancer itself, from tumors pressing against nerves or the spine, or from treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. The later the stage of mesothelioma, the greater the pain is likely to be, especially once the tumors have metastasized.

I was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

From automotive to demolition work, I’ve had many jobs in my life that contributed to my exposure. On some jobs, the air was so thick with debris and asbestos you could taste it in your mouth.

When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma I needed immediate medical attention. I found a few websites on the internet that are supposed to help people with my type of cancer but nobody got back to me.

Then I found Mesothelioma.net, one of their patient advocates gave me a call back within minutes – even though I contacted them on a Sunday. They gave me a great deal of helpful information on doctors and resources available to me, and now I am an advocate for them – trying to spread the word to anyone with mesothelioma who may need help and information.

Living with chronic pain makes everything more difficult and takes much of the joy out of life. There is hope, though, and there are many ways in which a mesothelioma patient can manage this pain. If you are living with cancer and experiencing chronic pain, talk to your medical team about some of these ideas and find out if they will work for you.

Pain Medications
One of the first lines of attack against cancer pain is the use of pain medications. You may start with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, but when these no longer work your doctor will likely have you try prescription opioid painkillers. These include drugs like oxycodone, hydromorphone, morphine, and others.

Opioids are powerful painkillers, but have downsides too. They are habit-forming and cause side effects like constipation. Opioids can be very effective, but must be taken at appropriate doses. If you experience side effects report them to your doctor because there are many different drugs in this class and some may work better for you than others.

Other Medical Treatments for Pain
When painkillers don’t work well enough, or the side effects are too severe, there are other medical treatments your doctor may offer to help you manage the pain of mesothelioma. These may include cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy because they can shrink the tumors that may be causing the pain. Neurosurgery to sever certain nerves carrying pain signals is also a possibility. You may also try a device that provides transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation, or TENS. This uses electric currents to provide pain relief and you can carry it with you to manage pain as needed.

Alternative Pain Treatments
In addition to medical treatments, many cancer patients rely on alternative medicine. These should never be used without your doctor’s consent or in place of medical treatment, but several of these strategies have proven benefits for people living with chronic pain. Those that may bring you some relief include biofeedback, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, massage therapy, meditation, physical therapy, and yoga.

Cancer pain is common, but undertreated. Your doctor may not ask you about pain that you experience, or you may not speak up about pain. Maybe you have been afraid to try medications because of side effects or addiction. Chronic and severe pain can be managed, but you must talk to your doctors about it. There are so many options you can try. One or more is likely to bring you significant relief.

For free resources and more information regarding mesothelioma, visit mesothelioma.net. The website is filled with information on mesothelioma treatments and doctors, asbestos trust funds for victims, and a lot more. 

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Authored by: Virgil Anderson

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. connie at 8:44 pm

    The acupuncture that I had was done by an osteopath who was supposedly well trained and very familiar with the practice. Acupuncture isn’t for everyone anymore than any other treatment works for everyone. Cookie cutter treatment doesn’t work!

  2. Sandra at 6:58 pm

    Acupuncture does work if you can ever find a person that knows how to use it. The fly by night schools some of them go to is a joke. It takes many years to understand how it works. Most people are doing it to make money only not to help people.

  3. connie at 7:03 pm

    The only thing acupuncture did for me was leave a little inflamed sore at the spot where each needle was placed. Acupressure will give extremely temporary relief with some types of pain.

  4. Cherylmarie at 6:29 pm

    Sorry you have mesothelioma. I think my Dad died of it back in 1976
    He was only 42. Worked in the shipyards and had his own body shop where he wore those lightweight masks when he painted. I wish you the best of luck and recovery.

  5. Loretta Marron OAM at 2:31 pm

    There is no place for acupuncture in 21st medical practice:
    http://www.scienceinmedicine.org.au/images/pdf/acupuncturereview.pdf
    Cochrane reviews do not support acupuncture – outcomes are that it is ineffective, poor methodological studies or inconclusive:
    http://www.scienceinmedicine.org.au/images/pdf/cochraneacupuncture.pdf
    The UK National Institute for Care & Health Excellence rejects acupuncture:
    https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/NG59
    Recommending acupuncture undermines patient trust, as recommendations should be based on evidence. In a publicly funded system, use of resources should be directed to interventions that work. Other harms are related to inconvenience, and opportunity cost, specifically in delay in diagnosis and in effective treatment.

  6. connie at 4:08 am

    I lost a dear friend to this horrible disease. Not only was his pain untreated the doctors at the VA totally ignored his symptoms and he wasn’t even diagnosed until one week before his death! Cancer pain is supposedly the one disease that is supposed to be treated but many doctors are ignoring that part of the CDC guidelines. It’s totally unconciable but then who ever said that doctors and/or the government have a conscience?

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