Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is always considered fatal, but innovative treatment protocols have allowed some patients to experience longer survival times than in the past.
Unfortunately, even patients who are experiencing prolonged periods of remission continue to live with the fear or recurrence. This is a problem that’s common among cancer patients and can have a significant impact on quality of life.
Fear of recurrence is characterized as “fear, worry, or concern relating to the possibility that cancer will come back or progress.”
Researchers have indicated that oncology teams can play an important role in helping their patients deal with this phenomenon, and make the most of the time when they are healthiest.
Mesothelioma patients who are in remission are able to live normal lives, but they often do so with a nearly perpetual state of dread that Phyllis Butow, MClinPsych, MPH, Ph.D., Director of the Medical Psychology Research Unit at the University of Sydney says is common in many cancer patients.
“On average, 49 percent of survivors of cancer experience moderate to high levels of fear of recurrence, and up to 70 percent of vulnerable groups…. About 7 percent of patients experience severe and highly disabling fear of recurrence, where they are constantly thinking about cancer, find it difficult to focus on other things in their lives or plan for the future, and are constantly checking for signs of recurrence.”
According to researchers, mesothelioma patients and other cancer patients are so impacted by this fear that it becomes a mental health issue, according to Butow.
“Fear of recurrence is different from general anxiety, in that it is very focused on cancer, and does not affect other areas of life. People with existing mental health issues, such as generalized anxiety or health anxiety, may be at higher risk for severe levels of fear of recurrence. However, most people with clinically significant levels of fear of cancer recurrence do not meet criteria for a specific mental health issue, suggesting it is a unique and significant mental health issue in its own right.”
To counter the effect of this overwhelming mental state, mesothelioma patients are offered effective coping strategies. For information about support resources, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.