Mesothelioma Patients May be Missing Out on Spiritual Care
Determining the appropriate end-of-life care for mesothelioma patients is challenging and can be stressful for the patients, their family and their physicians as well. Most often, the patient has specific thoughts and ideas on what he or she would like the care and quality of life to be as treatment is stopped and their end-of-life approaches. In a recent study, however, researchers found that if advanced cancer patients are hoping for spiritual care, their oncology nurses or physicians may not be helpful.
According to an article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston found that even though medical professionals “feel that spiritual care is an important, appropriate, and beneficial component of end-of-life care for patients with advanced cancer, it is infrequently offered, primarily due to a lack of training.”
In a survey of patients, nurses and doctors, the researchers found spiritual care training was deemed appropriate by 78 percent of the patients, 93 percent of nurses, and 87 percent of physicians. However, 88 percent of the nurses, and 86 percent of physicians had not received any spiritual care training. The authors concluded that “spiritual care training is critical to meeting national end-of-life care guidelines.”
Nearly two years ago, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released guidelines focused on individualized care for advanced cancer patients. ASCO encourages physicians to discuss a patient’s treatment options and preferences immediately after their terminal diagnosis so the treatment can be individualized from the start. In addition, ASCO encourages physicians to consider how to “personalize or tailor care to the diverse physical, psychological, social, and spiritual consequences of cancer for the individual patient.”
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), when patients’ spiritual needs are addressed, they will see benefits in their health and well-being. Some benefits, according to UMMC, include:
- Shorter hospital stay;
- Improved pain management;
- Improved experience of their stay;
- Improved motivation to complete the tasks of healing;
- Improved management of cardiovascular needs (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure);
- Improved sense of well-being.
Mesothelioma is a unique and rare form of cancer, typically affecting the lining of the lungs, caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Usually not diagnosed until symptoms appear, sometimes decades after exposure to asbestos, patients are left with few treatment options as the disease rapidly progresses. The treatments at this point are often palliative and are intended to control pain, stop bleeding, and relieve pressure.