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Hospice Program Helps Mesothelioma Patients Overcome Breathing Anxiety

Dyspnea is the medical term for shortness of breath that afflicts many mesothelioma sufferers. It is also known as “air hunger”, and it can provoke extreme discomfort and anxiety. Dyspnea can occur in people who suffer from a variety of different types of diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia and heart failure. Though dyspnea is a physical problem, it can lead to tremendous anxiety and depression, so offering mesothelioma patients a way to understand it, prevent it, and counter its effects is an important tool in improving quality of life.  Michael Shapiro is the Chief Medical Officer of Cornerstone Hospice, providing oversight and clinical stewardship of all medical practitioners in the facility. He has recently introduced a non-pharmacologic management program for patients experiencing dyspnea that can offer real relief for those suffering from mesothelioma.

Shapiro spoke about his program to a gathering of hospice medical directors in Phoenix last month. He explained that the protocol, which has been introduced to care units throughout his organization, helps both patients and their caregivers to alleviate the symptoms of shortness of breath, as well as the emotional impact that it can have. He compares what his self-management program teaches mesothelioma patients to how athletes can improve their overall performance by building lung capacity.

The notion of managing dyspnea is not new, but is sometimes forgotten in the rush to provide other, more pressing medical treatments. Yet researchers have found that clinically significant improvements can be made in both reducing the symptoms of dyspnea and in expanding exercise capacity with only minimal improvements in volume of forced expiration, so focusing on education, exercise, nutritional therapy and behavioral interventions can make a big difference.  Though there is admittedly no benefit from the perspective of curing or treating the underlying mesothelioma that patients are suffering from, the training in how to deal with dyspnea provides patients with tangible improvements in respiratory muscle performance, correcting muscle wasting, and perhaps most importantly – minimizing the anxiety, panic and depression that so frequently accompany the symptoms.

Programs that are geared towards providing mesothelioma patients with an easier road in the days that are left to them are essential in the face of this challenging disease, and that is what the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net strive for every day. If you need information on the many resources that are available to you or a loved one who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.


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