When you’re not feeling well, nothing sounds better than home. This sentiment rings true for people facing cancer who would prefer to spend as much time as possible with family.
Caring for a cancer patient at home, while time-consuming, is possible with the right amount of support and proper health care.
People with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, require care that considers lung health, pain management and maintaining overall health.
Improve Lung Health
Maintaining lung function and health is a top priority for people with pleural mesothelioma. As tumors spread along the pleural lining of the lung, the lining becomes thicker, putting increased pressure on the lungs. The lining also becomes less flexible, which stifles breathing.
Working with a pulmonary therapist can help. These therapists teach breathing techniques you can do at home that increase lung function and boost oxygen inhalation.
For example, a technique called pursed-lip breathing involves slowly inhaling through the nose, then exhaling through pursed lips. This technique calms the nervous system and makes breathing more controlled when you feel out of breath.
Some mesothelioma patients enjoy herbal teas that promote lung health such as slippery elm bark and pleurisy root.
Use a Portable Oxygen Tank
When pleural mesothelioma progresses, some patients experience severe difficulty breathing and require supplemental oxygen. If oxygen levels get too low, the brain and heart are deprived of oxygen, which could result in memory loss or changes in your heart function.
Portable oxygen tanks are a convenient option to boost oxygen levels. These tanks attach to a device on wheels, making them easy to transport around the home. They’re not bulky or large, which means you can bring them down narrow hallways or into small rooms.
Boosting oxygen helps patients feel energized, awake and more capable of performing everyday tasks.
When mesothelioma tumors grow they begin to press against bone and nerves, which causes pain for many patients.
Pleural tumors may press against the chest wall, ribs and spine. Abdominal mesothelioma tumors may put pressure against the spine or abdominal organs.
Thankfully, effective pain medicine with minimal side effects is available. For example, an opioid pain reliever called tramadol is effective at controlling nerve pain without causing severe constipation like other opioids.
It’s important to take pain medicine on a regular schedule to avoid breakthrough pain. You might have to switch to a different pain medication if it stops working.
Notify your doctor if your medication isn’t doing its job. He or she can quickly prescribe another pain medicine that should work better for you.
A Healthy Diet Promotes Overall Health
A healthy, nutritious diet is essential for people with cancer. Eating well helps you feel well.
It’s particularly important for cancer patients to eat enough calories and protein. Calories sustain energy and protein helps the body recover and repair.
Add extra calories by cooking with butter or coconut oil, tossing salads in rich dressings, adding eggs to casseroles and sandwiches, and mixing yogurt or milk into smoothies. Skip low-fat dairy in favor of full fat.
Boost protein by adding cheese to soups, salads and sandwiches. Diced meats make a great addition to omelets, casseroles and soups. Mixing powdered milk with full-fat milk doubles the protein. Snack on avocados, yogurt, sliced meat and cheese.
Exercise Counteracts Fatigue
Gentle exercise helps cancer patients to maintain energy, stamina, mobility and flexibility.
Any movement is better than none. Don’t overdo it. A walk around the house or block might be enough. Each person is different, and each day is different.
If you had a regular fitness routine before cancer, try to maintain it within your body’s new limits. Lifting light weights maintains muscle mass, which is associated with better recovery from cancer treatment.
Caring for someone with cancer presents challenges. Make sure to speak up when you need help. Reach out to family and friends for support, and good communication with your oncologist is a must.
With the right support, you’ll be able to offer great care to a loved one with mesothelioma from the comfort of your home.
Author bio: Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of integrative medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor, member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine and graduated from Rollins College in Florida.