A mesothelioma diagnosis presents patients and their loved ones with many challenges. Doctors’ appointments, treatments, and recovery become a part of everyday life. The patient likely struggles with pain and the challenges of losing their independence; meanwhile, their family, friends, and caregivers struggle to adapt and provide all the love and support they can. Undergoing complementary treatments, making healthy diet choices, and joining support groups can help to improve a mesothelioma prognosis.
Complementary Therapies for Improving a Mesothelioma Prognosis
Complementary treatments are those used in conjunction with orthodox treatment options such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Alternative treatments are therapies done in place of orthodox treatment. Due to the lack of proven efficacy, alternative medicine is not recommended by doctors for the treatment of mesothelioma.
Complementary treatments, however, can help alleviate pain or discomfort caused by the disease as well as symptoms that arise from standard treatments. A few therapies mesothelioma patients can supplement into their traditional treatment plan include:
- During acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted into the skin at precise points across the body. It can alleviate nausea, a common side effect associated with chemotherapy.
- Hypnosis is performed by a licensed therapist and induces a deep state of calm and concentration. It can be used to control pain, anxiety, stress, and nausea.
- Massage can aid with pain and stress management. It can also help with anxiety and fatigue often caused by conventional cancer treatments. Massage therapy should be done by a certified practitioner. If your blood counts are low, massage may not be a viable complementary option.
- Ozone therapy
- Many studies have confirmed that cancer does not thrive in oxygenated (aerobic) environments. Ozone therapy oxygenates the blood, creating a more aerobic environment. Additionally, ozone (O3) is germicidal, bactericidal, and fungicidal — all of which can help the body fight off infection. During the procedure, blood is removed from the patient’s body, oxygenated, and reintroduced to the body.
Consult with your mesothelioma specialist before undergoing any complementary treatments.
The Anti-Cancer Diet
A healthy diet is instrumental in building up your body’s strength and vitality when living with mesothelioma and undergoing treatment. Some patients have experienced improved prognoses by incorporating healthy changes into their everyday diet.
What you should be eating:
- Fruits and veggies — Plant-based foods are great because they are packed with nutrients and low in sugars. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and greens such as cabbage and kale are high in sulforaphane, a chemical compound shown to block the proliferation of and kill precancerous cells. Lycopene, found predominately in tomatoes and red peppers, is another powerful antioxidant containing cancer-fighting ingredients like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and vitamin E. Cooking the veggies before consumption helps the body absorb the many anti-cancer properties in lycopene. Grapes are another great snack for cancer patients, as they are loaded with activin, a superantioxidant shown to have anti-cancer benefits. Garlic and onions are also shown to help cancer patients, as they block the formation of the carcinogen, nitrosamine.
- Whole grains, legumes, and nuts — These anti-cancer foods have many health benefits and can help patients cut out harmful processed and refined foods.
- Green tea — A powerful antioxidant, researchers have found that green tea contains high levels of the anti-tumor ingredient epigallocatechin-3 gallate.
- Olive oil — Substituting butter for olive oil can be beneficial when fighting cancer, since it is a monounsaturated fat and proven anti-cancer food.
- Fatty fish — If you choose to eat meat, opt for fish rather than red or processed meats. Fatty fish like tuna and salmon contain healthy omega-3 acids. Choose wild-caught fish when possible instead of farmed.
- Vitamins and supplements — Taking additional vitamins and supplements can be beneficial for boosting your immune system, strengthening your body, and making it more receptive to cancer-fighting treatments. Calcium ascorbate has been shown to promote health in mesothelioma patients. Vitamin C can be taken orally or intravenously to stimulate the immune system. Speak with your doctor if taking any supplements during treatments, as some vitamins can be counteractive, limiting the treatment’s efficacy.
What you should be avoiding:
- Alcohol and cigarettes — People living with mesothelioma should avoid consuming alcohol, as it is a Group 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). Cigarettes should also be avoided; they are a proven carcinogen and have extremely negative effects on the lungs.
- Red meat — Red meat is another known carcinogen. Patients undergoing cancer treatments should avoid foods like beef, lamb, and pork.
- Processed meat — Bacon, sausage, pepperoni, prosciutto, salami, and deli meats have all been linked to cancer and should be avoided.
- Refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup — Cancer patients should limit their sugar intake, especially refined sugars.
Exercise for Mesothelioma Patients
People with mesothelioma can benefit from light exercise. Many of the common symptoms cancer patients experience — decreased energy levels, weakness, and weight loss — can be combated by adding in low-intensity aerobic exercise or low-impact activities like Tai Chi, yoga, or cycling.
A number of studies have highlighted the positive impact of exercise on cancer patients.
Exercise has been shown to reduce fatigue, stress, and blood pressure, as well as decrease pain. It keeps your muscles working properly and prevents deterioration due to inactivity. Exercise promotes healthy blood flow, lowering the risk of harmful blood clots. Studies have also validated the benefits exercise has on oxygen intake, sleep patterns, and overall cognition.
Beyond those benefits, regular exercise can help boost your self-confidence, making you less dependent on your caretakers. It also helps to keep anxiety and depression at bay (especially when done outdoors), offering a way to improve your overall quality of life and happiness.
Speak with your doctor about safely adding exercise into your daily routine.
The Mind-Body Connection
Mesothelioma takes a toll on more than just the physical body. Many studies show the benefits of nurturing the mind as well as the body to combat the emotional stress associated with a cancer diagnosis. Here are a few ways to calm your mind and relieve stress:
- Relaxation techniques
- Breathing exercises
- Reading uplifting books
- Joining a support group