Mesothelioma: How Do You Cope With the Mental Health Difficulties Upon Diagnosis?

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is fairly rare in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, about 3,000 new cases get diagnosed yearly.

Mesothelioma CT

Mesothelioma CT Courtesy of Dr. Frank Gaillard

Meanwhile, cancer patients can experience depression, a mental health condition that affects about 25% of these individuals. Such a statistic suggests that mesothelioma, a type of cancer, can be associated with mental health issues.

Read Also: Drug Helps Shrink Mesothelioma Tumors

Despite this situation, only 5% of cancer patients see a mental health professional.

What are the ways to deal with mental health difficulties caused by mesothelioma diagnosis? Are there any foods you can consume to help improve your mental health?

Are exercise routines or other physical activities effective in managing mental issues, especially for those diagnosed with mesothelioma? What is mesothelioma, and how does it impact one’s mental health?

This article discusses how counseling, diet, exercise, and medications can help manage mesothelioma-related mental health conditions.

This article also briefly explains the various mental health issues individuals with mesothelioma may experience and how to seek help when diagnosed with this condition.

Ways to Deal With Mental Health Issues Associated With Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a deadly and aggressive type of cancer affecting the mesothelium, which is a thin tissue covering most of your internal organs. One primary cause of this disease is asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is comprised of heat-resistant fibers and is widely known to cause mesothelioma and other cancers.

Individuals with mesothelioma often display symptoms depending on where the disease occurs in the body.

  • Pleural mesothelioma affects the tissues surrounding the lungs. This condition causes chest pain, shortness of breath, painful coughing, unusual lumps under the chest, and unexplained weight loss.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the abdomen tissue. Symptoms of this disease include abdominal swelling, nausea, abdominal pain, and weight loss.

Doctors use imaging tests to determine the cancer stage in individuals with mesothelioma. These mesothelioma stages depend on how much the disease has spread throughout the body.

Aside from the physical symptoms, anxiety disorders and depression are common among cancer patients who are receiving palliative care. Such mental health issues can have a significant impact on the quality of life in these individuals.

Mesothelioma is a serious disease that does not have a cure for most cases. This situation can cause mixed emotions among individuals diagnosed with this condition, and mental issues like depression can start to develop.

Fortunately, several methods can give individuals the needed support to help manage their depression linked to mesothelioma. These options include counseling, medications, exercise, and a proper diet.

Before considering these options, consult a healthcare provider for advice on which treatment options are appropriate for your condition.

Read Also: Mesothelioma: A Promising New Treatment Extends Life Expectancy

Talk Therapy or Counseling

Trained and licensed therapists can help individuals who are diagnosed with mesothelioma deal with their mental health issues associated with the disease.

Having a professional listen to the patient and the individual opening up and talking through those complex emotions can significantly help their mental health.

Additionally, a psychiatrist or psychologist can offer effective methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help address various mental illnesses. These experts can also provide other coping tools when you experience intense emotions.

CBT is a psychological method that may help manage depression, anxiety disorders, severe mental illnesses, and eating disorders. Studies indicate that CBT may help improve an individual’s functioning and quality of life.

Individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma can engage in talk therapy, typically offered in small group sessions or private, one-on-one settings.

Meanwhile, talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, is a variety of techniques that help individuals identify and change their troublesome thoughts, behavior, and emotions.

Proper Diet and Exercise

Individuals with mental health issues due to mesothelioma should consider eating a healthy diet rich in whole foods to help decrease their depressive symptoms.

Dietary recommendations for individuals with depression include consuming foods with omega-3, B vitamins, and amino acids.

Eating foods containing omega-3 fatty acids can provide health benefits, such as reduced cardiovascular disease risk and lower blood pressure. Omega-3 also helps lower triglyceride levels to prevent the risk of heart disease.

Triglycerides are fats in the blood and are formed from the calories that the body does not need to use immediately.

Omega-3 sources include oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and trout. Seaweeds and algae are also essential sources of omega-3.

Meanwhile, B vitamins are essential in various body processes, such as transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, breaking down amino acids, and releasing energy from carbohydrates.

B vitamins also help form serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters related to mood regulation.

Serotonin has an essential function on mood, nausea, sleep, bone health, blood clotting, and wound healing. On the other hand, dopamine acts as the body’s reward center and plays a role in memory, motivation, mood, attention, and movement.

Furthermore, amino acids make up proteins that provide the following benefits:

  • Help break down food
  • Provide energy
  • Build muscles
  • Maintain healthy skin
  • Produce brain chemicals and hormones
  • Boost the immune system

Foods containing B vitamins and amino acids include meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and nuts.

Read Also: Virus Pandemic Health Implications for Mesothelioma Patients

Furthermore, engaging in physical activity such as exercise several times a week can also help manage symptoms of depression.

Studies suggest exercise may help lower depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins, which are brain chemicals that enhance the sense of well-being. Regular exercise also helps take your mind off worries to escape the cycle of negative thoughts.


Doctors can prescribe the following medications for individuals with depression to help manage its symptoms:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These medications are less likely to cause adverse effects at higher doses than other antidepressants. SSRIs also generally cause few side effects.

SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft), and escitalopram (Lexapro).

  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): Medications under this category include venlafaxine (Effexor XR), duloxetine (Cymbalta), levomilnacipran (Fetzima), and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Doctors can prescribe MAOIs when other medications do not work for your condition. MAOIs include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and isocarboxazid (Marplan).

Taking MAOIs requires following a strict diet because of potentially dangerous interactions with foods such as pickles, wines, and certain cheeses.

MAOIs can also interact with medications such as decongestants (drugs providing nasal congestion relief), pain medications, and certain herbal supplements.

Selegiline (Emsam), an MAOI skin patch, may cause fewer side effects than other MAOIs.

  • Atypical antidepressants: Commonly prescribed antidepressants under this category include mirtazapine (Remeron), bupropion (Wellbutrin SR), vortioxetine (Trintellix), and vilazodone (Viibryd).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Doctors generally do not prescribe these medications unless the individual has taken other antidepressants and has shown no improvement.

Drugs under this category include imipramine (Tofranil), desipramine (Norpramin), and nortriptyline (Pamelor).

The Right Treatment Facility

Some cancer treatment centers have no mesothelioma specialists on staff. This situation does not mean patients should immediately transfer to another facility for cancer care. Instead, this shortage reflects the rarity of mesothelioma.

Only a few oncologists (doctors specializing in cancer treatment) are experts in mesothelioma management.

Thus, if your cancer doctor has little to no experience in mesothelioma treatment, you should consider a second opinion. Oncologists should not consider this option a problem since they often request second opinions from other doctors.

Your cancer center can help you arrange an appointment to get a second opinion. This assistance can include sending medical records, blood tests, and scans to the consulting physician.

Additionally, a mesothelioma specialist can be an essential source for learning about clinical trials related to this disease. For example, an experienced mesothelioma doctor may be conducting research or performing ongoing trials associated with the diagnosis.

Read Also: Study Shows Why Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma

Common Mental Health Issues Associated With Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma patients, including their carers, can experience significant psychological distress.

One study showed that the initial period of a mesothelioma diagnosis could bring shock, anguish, anger, numbness, anxiety, and depression.

Depression is a common medical illness that negatively impacts how an individual feels, thinks, and acts. This condition can cause various emotional and physical issues that can lower a person’s ability to function at home and work.

Depressive symptoms include the following:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities enjoyed before
  • Changes in appetite that leads to weight gain or loss unrelated to dieting
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Increased fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty in concentrating, thinking, or making decisions

Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that cause you to experience feelings of panic, nervousness, fear, sweating, and rapid heartbeat.

Disorders associated with anxiety include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

GAD causes a person to feel extreme worry or tension even when there are no real triggers for such feelings. GAD symptoms include restlessness, sleeping difficulties, and concentration issues.

Individuals with panic disorder can experience panic attacks that occur suddenly and unexpectedly, usually characterized by sweating, heart palpitations, and chest pains.

OCD is a pattern of unwanted fears and thoughts (obsessions), causing a person to perform repetitive actions (compulsions). Sometimes, these obsessions and compulsions can cause distress and interfere with an individual’s daily activities.

PTSD is a disorder affecting individuals who experience a shocking, dangerous, or scary event. People with PTSD often feel frightened or stressed even when there is no real danger.

Additionally, researchers identified hopelessness as a result of negative messages provided by healthcare professionals.

Read Also: Great Breakthrough in Understanding Mesothelioma a Cancer Caused by Exposure to Asbestos

After the initial period, the unpredictability and speed of the disease progression can cause extreme anxiety.

Breaking the news to an individual that they may have mesothelioma is a sensitive issue and must be handled with care. If you have any symptoms indicative of mesothelioma or know someone who has such symptoms, consult a doctor for a diagnosis and ensure to provide support.

For more help with mesothelioma and other cancers, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-422-6237.


Key Statistics About Malignant Mesothelioma:

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms:

Antidepressants: Selecting One That’s Right for You:

What Are the Psychological Effects of Mesothelioma on Patients and Their Carers? A Scoping Review:



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