Experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns are common after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Researchers are beginning to understand that depression and severe psychological stress could be even greater for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma.
In a November 2022 study in Frontiers in Psychology, Italian researchers explored how psychological stress differs for those with malignant mesothelioma. Disruptive symptoms, uncertain effectiveness of treatment options, poor prognosis, aggressive progression, and the cancer’s strong link to the occupational risk of asbestos exposure all impact the psychological stress mesothelioma patients endure.
However, psychological stress and mental health measurement questionnaires do not consider these unique conditions or the varying way mesothelioma patients, especially veterans, may talk about mental health.
This new tool proposed in this study uses clear and simplified language specifically targeted toward mesothelioma patients. Researchers found it was more successful in helping patients self-report their mental health concerns than other questionnaires.
As more and more patients come forward about their mental health, health care professionals can better address and treat the severe psychological stress that so often accompanies this cancer.
Depression and Mesothelioma
People with depression often have overwhelming feelings of dread, sadness, and anxiety. This can impact their daily life and make it difficult to do typical daily tasks such as eating, sleeping, or spending time with friends and family.
Common symptoms of depression may include:
- Appetite changes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive sleeping
- Lack of interest in activities once typically enjoy
- Loneliness or feeling isolated
- Sense of hopelessness
- Significant, unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Suicidal thoughts or feelings, recurrent thoughts of death
Unfortunately, depression can be difficult to identify. Some may feel they need to hide it from loved ones or not discuss their feelings due to fears of being judged or misunderstood.
Mesothelioma is also more common among men. Researchers have seen men may have a difficult time discussing mental health concerns with family and doctors.
Some patients may consider their mental health challenges as only symptoms of mesothelioma or side effects of medical treatments. Others may not be familiar with or comfortable describing their situation with the clinical descriptions used in measuring tools.
Without accurate ways to identify mental health struggles, patients may go too long without treatment and support resources.
Why Are Mesothelioma Patients at a Higher Risk of Depression?
Roughly 25% of people diagnosed with cancer develop depression. Mesothelioma patients are at an even higher risk of developing severe depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of depression that develop after a mesothelioma diagnosis are similar to common depression symptoms. However, mesothelioma patients may also experience feelings of betrayal, rage, and shock.
Researchers believe these feelings of betrayal are so high because many mesothelioma patients developed the cancer after being exposed to asbestos during military service or while dedicating years of work at a trade job. Mesothelioma patients often pursue legal resources to hold asbestos-product manufacturers accountable for knowingly putting millions of people at risk and to secure mesothelioma compensation for treatment.
However, the added stress of the legal process can greatly impact how both patients and family members cope with these circumstances.
VA Benefits and Mesothelioma Mental Health Resources
Thankfully, there are support resources available for all mesothelioma veterans who may be struggling with mental health concerns. You and your family do not have to go through this alone.
Mental health resources for mesothelioma veterans include:
- Community Organizations: Several community organizations, including the Mesothelioma Applied Research FoundationMesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, help mesothelioma patients and veterans access resources to support them through treatment.
- Support Groups: Support groups allow mesothelioma patients to connect with each other in a group setting, either in-person, online, or over the phone, to help keep patients connected and alleviate feelings of isolation.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits: The VA provides multiple compensation options to mesothelioma veterans. Additionally, the VA recently expanded emergency mental health resources for all veterans regardless of their enrollment in VA benefits.
Whether through VA benefits or talking with our Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma Veterans Center, remember there is no shame in seeking help for mental health concerns. Just as you would go to the doctor for a cold, it is important to seek care for anxiety and depression.
Contact our Patient Advocates today at (877) 450-8973 to see how we can help you find the best resources for you and your family.