Mesothelioma can cause chest pain and painful cough, but it can often be controlled.
Sometimes, cancer causes no pain. The symptoms may even be subtle until the cancer is advanced. But with mesothelioma, chest pain - where the tumor is usually found - a painful cough and pain associated with cancer spread and pressure on the organs are common. The good news: Cancer pain is something you must not tolerate. Pain management methods for mesothelioma are often successful.
Mesothelioma Pain: What to Expect
"It's not uncommon to have chest pain," says David Rice, MD, associate professor and director of the mesothelioma program at the Dr. Anderson University Cancer Center at the University of Texas. "Probably 30 to 40 percent of people will feel chest pain during their illness," he says, and that percentage could even reach 50 percent.
Mesothelioma develops in the abdomen or chest. About 75% of mesothelioma cases occur in the chest, called pleural mesothelioma. As this tumor develops in the chest, chest pain, as well as frequent and painful coughing, may occur.
"Not everyone with mesothelioma feels the pain," Rice says. However, as the cancer spreads, the pain becomes more likely as it affects other areas of the body and puts pressure on the surrounding organs. Bone metastases are also likely to cause pain, he says. Pain may also occur in the lower back or, in the case of peritoneal mesothelioma (abdominal), in the abdomen.
Mesothelioma pain: what does it look like
Glynn Kron, 57, of Ponchatoula, La., Did not feel pain related to her mesothelioma at first. In fact, he showed no symptoms.
"I consulted a pulmonologist to quit," said Kron, who said he was exposed to asbestos while working on cars and as a teenager while working in construction.
When the doctor assessed her condition before prescribing a drug, she found a collapsed lung on the X-ray. After that it did not swell again, he said, the medical team examined the inside and found the tumor. He was diagnosed as mesothelioma in October 2007.
He underwent major surgery in January 2008, which left a huge scar. "They cut a lot of nerves and muscles," says Kron. He lost all his lung, part of the chest wall, the lining of the chest wall and the lining of the heart. Today, he says, while he does not suffer from cancer, he still suffers from numbness and pain.
Kron is still trying to find the right way to manage his pain after the operation. He takes medication, but does not want to continue taking it forever. "I have tried over-the-counter pain medications, but they are not powerful enough - and you have to take a lot of them," he says. In addition, the cost of these over-the-counter medications becomes too high and too fast because insurance will not pay them. He is considering consulting a pain management specialist for better control.
"It certainly has an impact," says Kron about his daily life with mesothelioma. He has trouble bending over and even has trouble attaching his shoes. "Between the pain and the loss of the lung, it has reduced and changed my activities a lot."
Mesothelioma Pain: Management Techniques
Narcotics are the most common and effective way to treat mesothelioma pain, says Rice. But a thorough assessment is important to ensure that pain management is properly treated.
"Chest pain is usually controllable with narcotics," says Rice. "In patients with tumor-related chest pain, it is important that they be evaluated by a pain specialist at the start of treatment. the pain gets worse, the drugs can be [adjusted] upwards. "
Palliative chemotherapy is also an option for managing tumor pain, says Rice. Palliative chemotherapy is not intended to cure cancer, but rather to eliminate pain and maintain the comfort of the person. Reducing the size of the tumor can also reduce coughing or your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to stop coughing.
Mesothelioma is a difficult diagnosis, and treatment can be difficult - you will feel worse after the surgery than before. However, pain management is an important part of any cancer treatment plan and there are many options to try until you find what relieves your pain.