Turn to Fido for Comfort When Battling Mesothelioma
Treatment for mesothelioma can be exhausting and depressing. While often, a caregiver or loved one will offer support and comfort to the patient, many patients and researchers are finding that the comfort of a dog may be more beneficial.
Anyone that has a dog and has been consoled by a lick or snuggles from their furry friend knows that in times of distress the unconditional love from a pet can boost their mood and help them to move on. Now, an article in Cure, offers results of research that substantiates the healing power of pets.
While many factors determine survival for a mesothelioma patient, such as treatment plan, age, overall health and fitness of the patient and the extent of the disease, physicians also believe that a positive outlook and affirming thoughts can result in the improvement in a patient’s health. For many, that can come from their dog or cat, or from a therapy dog provided through their treatment center.
In a study conducted by Alan Beck, ScD, director of the Center of the Human Animal Bond at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., in the 1980′s, he found that “pet owners were more likely to survive at least a year after hospitalization for a heart attack or chest pain compared with non-pet owners.”
Mesothelioma is a very painful disease. Pain associated with the cancer varies from patient to patient and depends on the type of mesothelioma. The pain typically increases over time and can be acute in many patients requiring prescription narcotics to manage the pain. However, for mesothelioma patients suffering significant pain from the disease and treatment, pets can help ease their discomfort. According to Beck, pets can distract patients from negative thoughts or feelings. “Part of pain is your perception of pain. If you are bored out of your skull, worrying about the cancer, you’re going to feel every pain there is,” says Beck.
Duke Hospital recognizes the benefits pets can offer to their cancer patients. “Pets can offer companionship, affection, topics for conversation, and opportunities for reminiscing,” according to the Duke website. Because of these many benefits, they provide an animal-assisted therapy program called Pets at Duke (PAD). Through this program, trained therapy dogs make biweekly visits to both the adult and pediatric oncology units and to the radiation oncology clinic at Duke.
Although patients and physicians can provide anecdotal results of animal therapy, researchers want definitive proof of the benefits. New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center is conducting a study to determine whether regular visits by dogs through the course of intensive cancer treatment—chemotherapy and radiation—makes any difference in adult cancer patients.