Stress, Anxiety Associated with Mesothelioma could be Treated with Mindfulness

July 1, 2018
Stress, Anxiety Associated with Mesothelioma

When someone is diagnosed with cancer of any kind, there is no question that stress will be part of the equation. This is particularly true with something like malignant pleural mesothelioma or lung cancer. The symptoms of mesothelioma and lung cancer are similar can cause significant anxiety on their own. Shortness of breath, pain in the thoracic cavity, and unexpected weight loss are all ways in which anxiety can be exacerbated. It can also be hurtful to know that, in many cases, mesothelioma is a preventable disease as its main catalyst is exposure to asbestos.

Of course, many treatment options tend to neglect the mental and emotional aspects of the disease. While radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery give patients a better shot at long-term survival, the resultant stress and anxiety may aggravate other symptoms.

That’s where complementary and alternative therapies come in to the picture. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology looked at the effects of mindfulness on lung cancer patients. Mindfulness is essentially the psychological and therapeutic practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment and their surroundings. It is frequently used to treat mental illnesses such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder.

The study split patients and their partners into two separate groups. In one group, patients would receive normal care with no mindfulness therapy and, in the second group, patients would receive both normal care and mindfulness therapy (dubbed Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). Normal care included anti-cancer treatments, consultations, and other palliative care while the mindfulness therapy included an 8-week group intervention, education on the psychology of stress, and mindfulness training.

The results proved to be unsurprising for anyone who engages in mindfulness therapy. Patients in the mindfulness group exhibited a wide range of positive attributes, including:

  • More self-compassion
  • Enrichment in their quality of life
  • Less overall psychological distress
  • Positive rumination
  • Improved mindfulness aptitude

The non-mindfulness group, on the other hand, had higher baseline distress levels and a higher incidence of post-traumatic stress symptoms. The partners of patients were also included in the study, but there was no significant difference in their states of mind between one group and the other.

The conclusion reached by the researchers is that mindfulness can play a constructive role in reducing distress levels in patients diagnosed with lung cancer (or similar diseases). It may be common to ignore the mental and emotional impact of very physically taxing diseases partially because patients want to focus all their energy on beating the disease itself. But, having the right psychological framework can only help in that endeavor.

The writers of this study also suggest that mindfulness therapy be more readily available to cancer patients across the spectrum. There are really no downsides to it and the upsides can put patients in a much better frame of mind overall. If you suffer from mesothelioma and have high levels of distress because of it, then talk to your doctor or mental health professional about mindfulness. It can certainly help you make sense of your diagnosis and improve your quality of life overall.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call or email us for a free consultation.