Practically everyone with cancer has experienced anxiety at some point following their diagnosis.
Cancer offers numerous opportunities for worry.
Will the chemotherapy work?
What if my next imaging scan shows cancer growth?
What happens if the cancer comes back?
Part of living with mesothelioma is managing anxious thoughts and feelings. Some days or weeks are easier to manage than others, but having multiple ways to cope with anxiety and stress will help.
Anti-Anxiety Medication Helps
Though some people fear becoming addicted, short-term use of anti-anxiety medication is highly effective for those with cancer. Anti-anxiety medications are not as addictive when used to treat anxiety caused by life events, as opposed to anxiety caused by an anxiety disorder.
Certain anti-anxiety medications come with some beneficial side effects. For example, the anti-anxiety drug Ativan can reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, while Valium helps pain and Xanax and Klonopin can relax muscles.
Mental Health Counseling Works
Counselors help patients develop coping strategies to handle stress. They also teach behavioral techniques and relaxation therapies to help people reduce anxiety.
Some people don’t realize they’re anxious until they have a panic attack. Mental health counselors help people learn to recognize the early signs of anxiety so they can use coping strategies to nip the anxiety in the bud. Relaxation therapies, such as breathing techniques, meditation and yoga, are among the most effective for managing anxiety naturally.
Counselors also help people become aware of thinking patterns that contribute to anxiety and teach them to replace such thoughts with more healthful ways of thinking. This process takes some practice, but once ingrained, it’s a technique cancer patients can continue to use for free to prevent anxiety.
Some people develop cancer-related post-traumatic stress (PTS), which can happen anytime during or after cancer treatment. Cancer-related PTS is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), just not as severe and the symptoms don’t last as long. Thankfully, most cancer patients are able to cope and don’t end up developing full PTSD.
Questions and Answers from the June 2015 Online Support Group
Patients and caregivers asked a number of questions during the recent online support group. Here, we include answers to some of them.
Q: How many people decide against treatment and do well?
A: Though no agency is tracking how many people decide against treatment, researchers have determined that people with stage Ia mesothelioma live around two years without any treatment. For comparison, people who undergo surgery for stage I or II mesothelioma often live longer than three years.
Q: Is anyone participating in a clinical trial and having success?
A: Several of the support group members said they are in clinical trials and all of them reported feeling better since joining the trial. Here are the trials in which they are participating:
- Placebo Controlled Study of VS-6063 in Subjects with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (COMMAND): This study is investigating the drug VS-6063, also known as defactinib. The drug attacks tumor stem cells, which are the cells largely responsible for treatment resistance and metastasis (tumor spreading). The preliminary results are promising.
- Phase I Study to Determine the Maximum Tolerable Dose of BAY94-9343 in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors: BAY94-9343 is part of a new class of drugs called antibody-drug conjugates, which unite immunotherapy with cytotoxic (anti-cancer) therapy. The antibody part of the drug naturally binds to the antigen mesothelin, which is frequently overexpressed in mesothelioma, effectively serving as a taxi driver to deliver the cytotoxic portion of the drug directly to cancer cells. This targeted approach prevents nearby healthy tissue from being damaged. This is one of the few drugs that seem to work for people with sarcomatoid and biphasic cell types of mesothelioma.
- Study of LY3023414 in Participants with Advanced Cancer: This clinical trial is testing the value of a drug that blocks tumor spreading. The drug, currently called LY3023414, is a type of anti-angiogenesis drug. Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels, which allow tumor cells to grow and spread. Some participants receive LY3023414 in combination with chemotherapy (Alimta and Cisplatin).
- Safety and Efficacy of Listeria in Combination with Chemotherapy as Front-line Treatment for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: This immunotherapy trial is evaluating the merits of the cancer vaccine CRS-207. The initial results are encouraging, with 94 percent of participants having tumor shrinkage or no new tumor growth.