(PRWEB) January 2, 2006
Encouraging results from recent clinical studies and several ongoing studies were presented at the Oncology Nursing Society’s 6th Annual Institutes of Learning (ONS) meeting in Phoeniz, Arizona just a few weeks ago. Newer treatment options provide a longer life expectancy with less debilitating symptoms related to treatment. Some of these recent developments and their impact on helping patients and families cope the challenges of this type of cancer was presented to practioners by oncology nursing specialists.
Although the incidence in the US remains about 2,000-3,000 new vases each year, it continues to increase worldwide. Third world countries where asbestos industry regulations are less stringent are experiencing an increase in this aggressive form of cancer.
Currently, the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients, most commonly men in their 50s to 60s, is an average of nine months. However, many patients are now living longer said presenter Sue Gardner, MSN, AOCNP, a nurse practitioner at Lehigh Valley Hospital, Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The new antifolate pemetrexed (Alimta) has been shown to improve outcomes when combined with more standard chemotherapeutic agents such as platins and gebcitabine. Both prolonged survival and reduced side effects were seen in those who responded to the combinations as compared to single drug protocols. While only about 40% of patients responded to combination regimens, those who did gained life expectancy of 3 months or more. With the average life expectancy of nine months, that represents an increase of one-third.
The aggressive nature of mesothelioma leaves patients with challenging symptoms that require close medical management and a great deal of care and support from family members. Unrelenting cough, shortness of breath and depression are common and debilitating symptoms. Because nearly all patients develop pleural effusions that severely limit the ability to breathe, most will need chest tubes, shunts or pleural catheters for relief.
One of the most important tasks for the nursing team is instructing patients and their caregivers on how to alleviate discomfort at home. To manage pain and breathing difficulty, caregivers need to be taught how to use oxygen delivery systems, bronchodilators, steroids and narcotic medications.
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