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It is said that the quality of our lives is only as good as the quality of our lungs, as even the simplest of chores become a hassle if one struggles with a respiratory illness. An example of a rare but highly stubborn form of cancer that invades the mesothelial cells within the pleural cavity of our lungs is mesothelioma. So far, no cure is known to reverse the damage that this disease entails. At its initial stages, the mass is localized and can be easily resected. But with progression, it latches onto surrounding nerves and tissues, thus strengthening its grounds, making removal impossible and the chances of survival negligible.

Treatment and Associated Complications

Overall, the average life expectancy of mesothelioma patients is 12-18 months but can vary depending on the individual’s situation. The treatment plan is patient-specific and depends on the severity of the spread and the stage at which the illness is diagnosed. Surgery coupled with chemo and radiation therapy is recommended for patients at stage 1 or 2. However, for terminal stages, no viable cure has been discovered. While a doctor cannot reverse the damage, they can provide medications and palliative care to manage the symptoms. To get a better grasp of the different treatment options available, visit this website.

While reactions cannot be eliminated, patients can learn to better manage and cope with these complications by working with a supportive healthcare team. Some common side effects patients must be aware of include: 

1. Chemo Brain

Commonly called cognitive impairment or dysfunction, it is a condition characterized by memory loss, lack of focus, and brain fog due to repeated exposure to radiation. Patients suffer from mental cloudiness, the inability to focus, and frustration as they struggle to remember tiny details about their life. They forget basic words during a conversation, have memory lapses, and find it hard to concentrate or focus on a task at hand, hindering their everyday social life to a great extent. Although this side-effect cannot be avoided, doctors can help reduce the symptoms by guiding patients to make a few effective lifestyle changes, for instance:

  • Maintain lists to keep track of important dates and appointments 
  • Keep a fixed everyday routine 
  • Remain physically active 
  • Exercise the mind by indulging in thoughtful activities like crossword puzzles,
  • Keep note of when these memory lapses happen to find the trigger 

2. Sleeping Disorders

Proper sleep is critical for normal body function, especially for patients with cancer who are already coping with immense agony. Physical changes from cancer treatments coupled with the stress and anxiety of recovery make it difficult for patients to get a proper night’s rest. Additionally, therapeutic drugs like antihistamines, antidepressants, and antimetabolites commonly utilized in chemotherapy are known to trigger insomnia. 

3. Hair Loss

Cancer treatments destruct damaged and healthy cells alike, often leading to unwanted physical changes, of which the most common is alopecia. The condition causes excessive and rapid hair loss all over the body, including the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, and body hair, often leading to the formation of bald spots. Patients lose their hair sporadically, major chunks and xysters are pulled out during washing or brushing. While the side-effect is temporary, it may affect a person’s self-esteem and confidence. Doctors recommend the use of sunscreen, a cooling cap, and soft head coverings to slow down the loss. 

4. Cachexia

More than 50% of cancer patients develop this disorder, especially those at stage 3 or 4. The repeated nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite induced by chemo and radiation therapy often trigger this terrifying illness that causes body muscles and bones to waste away. A cancer patient’s body is under extreme stress and can often malfunction, causing it to attack itself and degrade healthy skeletal muscles and fat tissues. Patients become frail, weak, and experience fatigue due to severe weight loss, lack of muscular movement, reduction in body fat and skeletal mass. This defect, if left unmanaged, can have fatal consequences. 

5. Influenza

Cancer patients are immunodeficient, meaning their immune system is far weaker than a normal person making it a site for bacterial or viral growth and an easy target for developing the infectious disease. Even the most mundane illnesses like flu or common cold can significantly impact their body, delaying recovery and complicating ongoing treatment. Patients with mesothelioma already have a compromised respiratory system and struggle to breathe. The added trauma from the influenza virus can aggravate their symptoms, causing an aggressive cough that can rupture delicate blood vessels in the pleura and lung, making breathing impossible. If left untreated, it can cause pneumonia, induce life-threatening complications, and make the patient ineligible for surgery. 

The risks associated with cancer treatments cannot be eradicated, but patients can be taught how to better manage them and cope with their symptoms. Indeed, tackling a chronic illness is no easy task and has both emotional and physical repercussions. The right support system, good healthcare team, and some conscious lifestyle changes will help you get a good grip on your health and keep you protected in the long run.

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