Mesothelioma is a cancer which involves either the lining of the lung (the pleura) or the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum). Pleural mesothelioma is much more common that peritoneal mesothelioma. Mesothelioma occurs in people who have breathed in asbestos fibres and there is often an interval between the exposure to the asbestos and the development of the tumour which may be as long as forty years. After the asbestos has been inhaled, it may be coughed up and then swallowed, and this may well be the main cause of peritoneal mesothelioma.
Patients suffering from mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos in the past either in the manufacturing industry or in the construction industry. It is also possible that the person who had worked with the asbestos could bring some of the fibres home on their clothing, skin or hair, and this may, in turn, affect the health of other members of the family.
The early symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include chest pain, breathlessness and a persistent cough. Because the symptoms can be mild in the first instance, the diagnosis of this cancer may be delayed. Later, fluid frequently collects in the cavity surrounding the lungs leading to pain in the shoulder and lower back and an increase in breathlessness. It will often be these symptoms which will drive the patient to seek medical help. In peritoneal mesothelioma, the most common features are abdominal pain and swelling, nausea, bowel obstruction and weight loss.
There are a number of investigations that can be carried out to establish a diagnosis including a CT scan, MRI scan, as well as fluid and tissue analysis. There are a number of treatments available for patients suffering from mesothelioma including surgical procedures, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Hypnotherapy is extremely helpful in relieving pain and breathlessness; and, in addition, patients frequently find that, by learning self hypnosis, they can sleep better at night and lower their anxiety levels thus improving their overall well being and quality of life. Patients suffering from mesothelioma are often angry that they were exposed to asbestos without adequate protection and that they were not made aware of the dangers of this substance. For this reason, it is important for these patients to express their feelings of anger to the therapist before starting the hypnotherapy. In Kraft’s experience it is helpful to divide the treatment sessions into two parts: the first part is devoted to psychotherapy where the anger can be expressed in a safe environment, while in the second part of the treatment session hypnosis is used in order to alleviate the distressing symptoms of the patient
Kraft has worked at Eden Hall Marie Curie Centre in London for 10 years and as had wide experience in the treatment of cancer patients. For further information, patients may wish to consult a website dedicated to controlling this illness at www.mesotheliomainternational.org