Anyone working with people affected by asbestos cancer fully understands that a mesothelioma diagnosis is a life-altering event, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Among the challenges following a diagnosis, the impact on mental health is significant and often underappreciated. Understanding and addressing the psychological impact of such a diagnosis is crucial for patients and their families . Patients often report feeling fearful about the future, how their loved ones will cope, and their upcoming medical appointments.

A recent study* assessed the impact of mesothelioma on mental health and well-being, and the scale of mental health conditions in patients and carers. The survey used various methods to assess health-related quality of life, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. The survey received 96 usable responses, of which 50% reported anxiety, 30% reported depression, and 33% report post-traumatic stress.

Interestingly and importantly, the study says the impact on carers should not be underestimated and the results reflect the adverse impact a diagnosis can have on them, since carers had a worse score than the patients. Carers play a crucial role in the emotional well-being of mesothelioma patients, as well as providing practical and physical support, which often enables the patient to remain at home and receive care in the comfort of their own home.

These results are stark, and further emphasise that patients require support across all aspects of their lives following a diagnosis of mesothelioma. It is vital that patients are sign-posted for support regarding their mental health, whether this is psychological support and counselling, or a support group.

Groups such as HASAG are a crucial source of support for patients, because connecting with others going through similar experiences can be incredibly comforting. Support groups, whether in-person or online, offer a community of understanding and shared experience, and can provide positivity and optimism to patients.

Ensuring a patient’s mental health is addressed requires a combination of professional support, personal coping strategies, and a strong support network. Further research is needed in this area to fully understand the mental impact of a diagnosis and ensure patients and their loved ones are properly supported.

* The mental health and well-being implications of a mesothelioma study: A mixed methods study, Sherborne and others European Journal of Oncology Nursing March 2024