Mind Over Cancer: Meditation Can Help Mesothelioma Patients Cope, Relax

May 8, 2014

During the course of mesothelioma treatment, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, patients may find themselves searching out complementary therapies to help cope with the side effects of treatment for this devastating disease. Meditation is a mind-body process that may help mesothelioma patients relax the body and calm the mind, aiding in relaxation and symptom relief from chemotherapy or the emotional stress of a cancer diagnosis.

Meditation has been used for centuries around the world, and a panel for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found it might be a useful complementary therapy for treating chronic pain and insomnia.

In fact, a recent study of 90 cancer patients doing meditation for seven weeks found that 31 percent had fewer stress symptoms and 65 percent had fewer episodes of mood disturbance than those who did not meditate. Other studies have suggested that meditation improves the chance of a positive outcome through improved brain and immune function, among other things.

Sitting meditations are generally done in a quiet location, free from major distractions. Meditation is done by closing the eyes and starting to note the breath and the physical sensations of the body. As thoughts arrive in the mind, they are welcomed in and then ushered out, bringing the focus back time and again to a single thought, phrase or idea. This quiet focus is thought to be what calms the mind and brings about feelings of well-being.

There are moving forms of meditation, as well, like tai chi, qigong and walking meditation. Those with mesothelioma should talk with their doctors before starting any type of meditation that involves physical movement.

For mesothelioma patients interested in meditation, a local cancer center is a good place to start looking — many offer guided meditation classes along with standard therapies. The Internet is another valuable resource: There are guided meditation podcasts, online publications detailing best practices, videos and websites devoted to the art of meditation.

Practices like meditation may help to improve the quality of life for people with mesothelioma.

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