Mesothelioma and Oxygen Therapy
For those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a number of treatment options can be made available to them depending on the stage of their cancer. Most equipment and medication for them are either life sustaining or life enhancing. They do not provide a cure as there is no cure for mesothelioma and prognosis is very poor. Nevertheless, there are medical equipment to significantly increase a patient’s quality of life, including those that provide oxygen therapy.
There are other equipment that go beyond oxygen therapy. This is because certain forms of treatment work better when used together. For instance, they may be prescribed an at-home hospital bed, which helps them achieve a better position, thereby also making breathing easier. This equipment may be provided to them as part of their insurance, or they can purchase it themselves, often even secondhand.
Some of the more common symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pains, shortness of breath, weakness, pleural effusions (which happens when fluids build up in the lungs), and fatigue. These symptoms can have a significant impact on the patients’ activity level and will significantly decrease their quality of life. Sometimes, these symptoms can be life threatening, which is why they must be properly managed as per the wishes of the patient.
Mesothelioma and Oxygen Therapy
Oxygen therapy is one of the many mesothelioma treatment options currently being researched. Usually, this is provided to people who suffer from pleural mesothelioma, which the vast majority of people with this form of cancer develop. Essentially, it means that fluids build up in the lungs, which makes it difficult to breathe.
People who have this form of mesothelioma are often offered oxygen therapy, which means they are provided with a tank of oxygen that can help them breathe better. Usually, Medicare and Medicaid will cover the payments involved with oxygen therapy. However, it is important for the patient to speak with the insurance company to find out what they cover, and to what extent.
Different types of oxygen therapy equipment exist, and it may be that the patient will only use one or all of them.
1. Mechanical Ventilator
A mechanical ventilator is provided to patients who have advanced stage mesothelioma. At this stage, patients experience painful, difficult breathing. In order to make them feel more comfortable and to make breathing easier, a mechanical ventilator can be offered as a short term solution. This is also known as a breathing machine or a respirator. Improvements in mechanical ventilators are constantly being made as a result of ongoing research.
When provided with a mechanical ventilator, the patient will have a tube fitted into either the nose or the mouth, and this tube connects to the windpipe. The ventilator then blows in a mixture of oxygen and air, straight into the patient’s lungs. It is very important that there are people present to care for the patient, and that they are properly trained on how to provide this care.
It should be noted, however, that while mechanical ventilators are often lifesaving devices, they can cause significant problems. If not used properly, they can lead to pneumonia and lung damage. This further highlights the importance of learning how to use it properly.
The spirometer enables patients to monitor their own lung function, to check on their current condition. Most people with mesothelioma will already be familiar with the spirometry test, as their physician will routinely perform it as well. A spirometer has a mouthpiece, a recording device, and a piece of tubing. Patients need to take a deep breath, after which they have to exhale quickly and vigorously into the tube itself. The spirometer measures the volume of air that is inhaled or exhaled, and it also measures the length of time between each inhalation and exhalation.
Mesothelioma patients have to record these measurements and they will tell physicians a lot about the state of their lungs. In most cases, a spirometry test will be taken at every physician’s visit. However, there are now quite a few at home spirometers, such as the Spiro PD, that can be used at home. This enables patients to not just take their own measurements, but to record this information as well. This, in turn, enables physicians to have a clearer picture of how the disease is progressing.
3. Portable Oxygen Tank
Last but not least, oxygen therapy may include the use of a portable oxygen tank. This is needed for those who want to be able to travel, or go outdoors. Because the quality of life of people with mesothelioma is already significantly reduced, a lot of work is done to enable these patients to enjoy some of the other things in life, which include outdoor pursuits. Enabling patients to have at least a reasonably good mental health will also improve their overall quality of life and even slightly improve their prognosis. As such, offering portable oxygen tanks as a form of oxygen therapy is not just supported, it is often recommended.
These tanks come in various sizes. Some are even made to be suitable specifically for airline travel. The cylinders are very lightweight and easy to carry, and they come in bags or carry cases for easy transportation. They come with a flexible tube to which two prongs are attached. These prongs can be inserted into the nose, where they then deliver oxygen. Sometimes, an entire face mask is provided rather than two nasal prongs.
However, for those who have been prescribed oxygen tanks, they and their caregivers have to be aware of the fact that these are highly flammable. Hence, the cylinder should never be placed near an open flame, or even heat. Furthermore, it is important to keep the equipment clean to prevent getting an infection. The carer will usually be told how to wash the tube, prongs, and/or mask with a mild detergent, and how to sanitize them. Sanitization is usually achieved by using a solution that is three parts distilled water and one part vinegar.
These are the three main forms of oxygen therapy. For those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, their options will be discussed with them and the person or persons who are looking after them. The goal is to make their lives more comfortable, and thereby also more enjoyable.