There has never been any doubt over the crucial role palliative care plays in significantly improving a mesothelioma patient’s sense of wellbeing, and has always been considered essential to a range of inclusive asbestosis treatments.

New research indicates a concern over the effect that palliative care may have when being applied at a specific stage, and whether the patient’s needs and ultimately, their life expectancy may even be diminished.

Despite ceaseless clinical research there is still no cure for asbestos-related, mesothelioma cancer. Prolonging a patient’s survival, easing symptoms and enhancing the remaining quality of life is the key aim of all palliative care.

It is recognised that a long gestation period of between 15 to 50 years may elapse from an initial exposure to the emergence of asbestosis symptoms. In many cases, a confirmed diagnosis of mesothelioma often comes at the late stages of 3 or 4 in the spread of the disease when survival rates may be only be around six months.

Treatments depend on many individual factors

Consequently, recommended treatments will depend on many individual factors, such as age and overall health, as well as the stage and the type of mesothelioma diagnosed before proceeding with more invasive, late-stage medical procedures.

In a number of cases, patients may be simply too ill to cope with treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy but can still be able to receive treatment to try and relieve symptoms, such as pain, breathing problems and weight loss.

While the goal of palliative treatment is always just to relieve pain, reduce symptoms and improve overall quality of life, a new six year clinical study has found evidence that “negative outcomes may result.”

When palliative care chemotherapy was stopped

When researchers analysed the data from nearly 400 terminally ill patients, it was discovered that patient care could actually improve when palliative care chemotherapy as one of the practices was stopped.

The data study found that the use of palliative chemotherapy was mostly associated with late hospice referrals as well as higher rates of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and artificial respiration in the last week of life. Survival had not increased and patients also were found to be more likely to die in intensive care, compared with those who did not receive palliative chemotherapy or those who died at home.

The study also found that just over a half of those patients who received chemotherapy were referred late (in the last week of life) to hospice care while only around a third of those not receiving chemotherapy were referred late to hospice care.

Additional research needed

Researchers have concluded that, “there often is a misunderstanding of the consequences and purpose of palliative chemotherapy.”  The study also suggests that patients need to be asked about “their preferences while receiving chemotherapy to ensure they receive the kind of care they want…”

The analysts also agree that it is very clear that additional research has to be conducted to investigate the current findings, as to date, “ there hasn’t been evidence of harmful effects of palliative chemotherapy in the last few months of life.”

Consequently, it is vitally important to seek advice from mesothelioma medical specialists whenever a patient receives a confirmed diagnosis and is likely to undergo a course of treatments.