The damaging effects of asbestos exposure don’t only impinge on a person’s physical health. Victims of asbestos-related illnesses suffer psychologically, as well. In this exclusive ongoing series, we’ll shed some light on that other side of terminal illness by examining the impact of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases on mental and emotional health-not just for patients but for their loved ones as well.
Some of the topics we’ll cover include: psychiatric conditions common to victims of mesothelioma cancer and other related conditions, how to share news of a terminal diagnosis with loved ones, coping with grief and loss, types and stages of the bereavement process, self-help techniques for managing mental health during treatment and more.
Mesothelioma and Mental Health-PART FIVE
In the previous installment of this series, we discussed positive psychology as a component of cancer treatment; now, let’s explore that topic further by examining the exact role that a patient’s attitude and mentality can potentially play in the outcome of a mesothelioma prognosis.
It’s important to remember that average mesothelioma life expectancy is typically between four and eighteen months from the time of diagnosis, and prognoses are almost invariably dismal. However, it is within the individual cases of co-called “survivors”-who reach the rare state of remission and then remain healthy well past their expected longevity-that factors such as attitude and outlook, as well as holistic approaches to healing directly after diagnosis, appear to be responsible for producing seemingly miraculous outcomes.
Medical Science Behind a Mesothelioma Prognosis
When giving a prognosis, oncologists do not consider any mind-body or other highly personalized factors but rather base their predictions on two key sets of quantifiable information. First, they essentially categorize the patient’s condition by individualized aspects of the disease itself-location and stage of the malignancy being the most prominent, as well as the type of mesothelioma treatment being prescribed. Then, using statistical data of outcomes in clinically similar conditions, doctors will make a “best guess” of what to expect for the individual patient. This estimate is called a prognosis.
Mind-Body Connection in Treatment Outcomes
One thing the majority of mesothelioma “survivors” share is a belief in the powerful effects of various complementary and alternative medicine (often called CAM) methods in treating this aggressive and “terminal” form of cancer. Mind-body medicine modalities play a particularly large role in most survival stories, particularly as they involve positive thinking and attitudinal hope to create a physical environment for healing.
But is believing really the same as being? Some research suggests that the efficacy of mind-body techniques-including meditation, guided imagery, hypnosis and yoga-lies largely in reduction of stress and its related hormone production, which consequently has been repeatedly shown as having a significantly positive effect on the immune system.
So while the scientific evidence may not be all there just yet, the physiological role of emotional and psychological states-including general attitude towards recovery-can be reasonably assumed as having a potentially palpable effect on a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis and ultimate upshot against the disease. Beyond the role positivity-enhancing and stress-reducing methods could have in increasing chances of remission, they have also been well demonstrated to provide significant pain relief and improvement in mental health conditions for those coping with a terminal diagnosis.
And all of this information begs one particularly compelling question about positive thinking as a complementary treatment for mesothelioma patients-what’s the harm in giving it a try?