Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma can be overwhelming and scary. Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart and is caused by exposure to asbestos.
After a mesothelioma diagnosis, it is crucial to take action quickly and educate yourself about the disease and treatment options. Time is of the essence, as mesothelioma is fast-growing, and early treatment provides the best chance for survival.
Let’s explore the eight most important things to do after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis.
1. Learn About Mesothelioma
Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma can feel overwhelming. The first step is to learn as much as possible about mesothelioma, its causes, symptoms, stages, treatment options, and prognosis. Mesothelioma is classified into three main types based on where the tumor develops – pleural mesothelioma (lungs), peritoneal mesothelioma (abdomen), and pericardial mesothelioma (heart).
Understanding the type and stage of your mesothelioma will guide treatment options. Visit a doctor so they can determine how far the cancer has progressed. Also, you can utilize useful resources to learn about mesothelioma, including reputable medical websites, books, in-person and online support groups, and one-on-one conversations with a mesothelioma specialist. A particularly comprehensive source that many patients have found invaluable is mesotheliomahope.com. This website offers a plethora of information about the disease, potential treatment options, and patient testimonials, making it an essential tool for those wanting to understand their diagnosis thoroughly. Knowledge empowers patients to make the best choices about their care during this challenging time.
2. Get an Accurate Diagnosis
The mesothelioma diagnosis is typically made through a combination of imaging tests and a biopsy. Imaging tests, such as chest X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, can help to identify the presence of a tumor and to determine its size and location. But, a biopsy is the only way to diagnose mesothelioma definitively. During a biopsy, a small tissue sample is removed from the tumor and sent to a pathologist for examination under a microscope.
However, getting a second opinion from a doctor specializing in mesothelioma is highly recommended.
This is important because mesothelioma can often be misdiagnosed initially, leading to improper treatment. An accurate diagnosis from an experienced specialist provides the greatest chance of successful treatment.
3. Find a Mesothelioma Specialist
Patients who consult a doctor specifically trained and experienced in treating mesothelioma tend to have better outcomes. It is advised to find a dedicated mesothelioma specialist to oversee your care rather than a general oncologist. Mesothelioma specialists stay current on the latest advances in multimodal therapy – combining surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to target the cancer.
Patients should thoroughly research specialist options, get referrals from their primary doctor, and have consultations with multiple mesothelioma specialists before deciding where to get treated.
4. Research Treatment Options
Once diagnosed, the next vital step is learning about your treatment options, which depend on the type of mesothelioma and how far it has progressed. For early-stage mesothelioma, curative treatment may include surgery to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells.
For later-stage mesothelioma that has spread further, the goals shift to slowing cancer growth and relieving symptoms. This involves chemotherapy drugs, radiation therapy, and sometimes experimental treatments through clinical trials.
Understanding all available treatment options, both standard and clinical trials testing new therapies, allows you to make a fully informed decision with your medical team.
5. Form A Medical Team
Battling mesothelioma requires a multi-disciplinary approach, combining the expertise of various specialists. It is advised to assemble a medical team experienced in mesothelioma, including a dedicated surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, pulmonologist, radiologist, and palliative care specialist.
Having trusted experts across different disciplines collaborate provides the most comprehensive treatment plan and higher quality care.
6. Seek Emotional Support
Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis understandably elicits strong emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, and depression. It is important to seek emotional support to help process these difficult feelings. Speaking with a mental health professional teaches valuable coping techniques to handle your diagnosis and treatment journey.
Joining a cancer support group connects you with fellow patients who relate to your experiences. Confiding in loved ones allows them to provide comfort, encouragement, and assistance. Building this emotional support system is vital to help you through the physical and mental challenges ahead.
7. Consider Clinical Trials
Clinical trials studying new mesothelioma treatments may provide cutting-edge benefits beyond standard care. Patients should consult their medical team about whether joining a clinical trial could be advantageous in their case. Participating gives access to promising new therapies not yet widely available.
Patients in trials are closely monitored and play an important role in advancing mesothelioma research. Weighing all factors of clinical trial participation with your doctors can lead to the best outcome.
8. Develop a Comprehensive Plan
After researching your diagnosis and available treatment options and assembling your medical team, the next step is to work with your lead doctor to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. This personalized roadmap outlines your clinical path, including your medical team lineup, surgery and medication schedules, palliative support, and follow-up care.
Having this written treatment plan provides valuable organization and direction during a chaotic time. It will serve as your guide throughout your mesothelioma journey, ensuring you understand and consent to each aspect of your care.
A well-developed plan will make you feel confident in your treatment in the fight ahead.
A mesothelioma diagnosis leaves patients with many unknowns and critical choices to make. While it may seem overwhelming, taking action the days after diagnosis can positively impact prognosis and quality of life.
Learning about the disease, finding experienced specialists, exploring all treatment options, assembling a medical team, getting emotional support, considering clinical trials, and mapping out a treatment plan will empower patients to face mesothelioma head-on. Proactively seeking information and resources leads to wise, informed decisions during a difficult time. Patients who take charge of their care have better outcomes.