Living with Mesothelioma: How Exercise Can Help

Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that causes a number of uncomfortable and painful symptoms. Treatment options are limited and cause their own side effects and symptoms. Individuals living with this disease may feel as if they have no control over the cancer or how to treat it, but there are steps that can be taken to make life more enjoyable, more comfortable, and to improve treatment outcomes.

They all begin with being more active.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that originates in the mesothelium; a thin, double layer of tissue that wraps around the organs in the body. The most common form affects the pleura; the part of the mesothelium that is found in the chest cavity and around the lungs. It is most often caused by exposure to asbestos and it has a long latency period, with diagnoses coming decades after exposure. Many people diagnosed are retired and learned too late that they had been working around asbestos. Some of these victims are able to recover damages with the help of a mesothelioma lawyer.

The common symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pains, shortness of breath, a painful and persistent cough, and lumps under the skin. More symptoms occur as the cancer spreads to other areas of the body. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, but this is an aggressive type of cancer that is challenging to treat and nearly always incurable.

Experts Now Advise Exercise For Cancer Patients

It goes against traditional wisdom, but being active has been found by researchers to actually be beneficial for cancer patients, including those living with mesothelioma. The American College of Sports Medicine brought together a panel of experts to review the findings on the subject and issued guidelines based on one main principle – cancer patients should avoid inactivity. This includes patients who are still undergoing treatment and those that have finished treatments.

mesothelioma exercise

The reasons for the guidelines are the many proven benefits of exercise for cancer patients:

Exercise reduces fatigue.

Reasonable physical activity actually boosts energy in patients who are trying to live with the sometimes extreme fatigue that comes with mesothelioma. It is one of the more common complaints of all cancer patients; weariness so deep it makes doing anything seem impossible. As with a healthy person, getting in regular workouts boosts energy and tackles fatigue, even when it is hard to feel motivated to get up and do something.

Exercise combats depression.

Patients living with any type of cancer, but particularly such aggressive and fatal cancers like mesothelioma are naturally susceptible to feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, and stress. Physical activity is known to boost mood by causing a flood of chemicals in the brain that make a person feel good. Exercise will not bring a person to terms with having mesothelioma, but it can make a significant difference in mood and help a patient find a healthy way to cope with negative emotions.

Exercise lets patients take back control.

Living with Mesothelioma may feel like everything is spinning out of control. Exercise is one way, even if it is a small one, to get back some of that control. Patients with cancer often lose fitness and muscle mass and either lose weight or gain weight. Exercise helps them to maintain some degree of fitness and to have greater control over their own bodies, which is a powerful feeling to have.

Exercise improves treatment outcomes.

In many cases the treatment that a mesothelioma patient may receive is limited by that person’s physical health. With regular exercise, patients are able to achieve greater overall fitness and health and are better able to tolerate cancer treatments. This leads to better outcomes. As one study found, active cancer patients were more likely to survive their cancers than those that were not active.

Being in better health overall can help cancer patients feel better, have more energy, and maintain fitness, but it also has a real impact on cancer outcomes. One study actually found that cancer patients who were active during treatment were significantly less likely to die than their peers who were sedentary. These positive results were probably due to better health and greater fitness that allowed active patients to better tolerate treatments for cancer.

Exercise, but with Precautions

If you are living with mesothelioma or another type of cancer, all the evidence suggests that to be active is better than to remain inactive, even if rest seems like what you really need. There are some caveats, though. You should not overexert yourself or try to keep up with the level of fitness you had before becoming sick. Always talk to your doctors before trying any kind of workout. Your medical team can guide you and tell you how much exercise you can handle, and how much will be too much.

You may also want to consider working with a physical therapist or trainer who has experience working with cancer patients. These experts will understand what your limitations are and will be able to design a fitness routine for you that makes sense and will not push you too hard. Regardless of the kind of exercise you try as you fight mesothelioma, some activity seems to be better than none at all.

Virgil Anderson was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Virgil’s exposure came from working in demolition and excavating since high school.

Virgil Anderson Mesothelioma exerciseWhen he was diagnosed with mesothelioma he needed immediate medical attention. He found a few websites on the internet that are supposed to help people with mesothelioma cancer, but nobody got back to him.

Then he found Even though he contacted them on a Sunday one of their patient advocates gave him a call back within minutes. They gave him a great deal of helpful information on doctors and resources available to him.

As a result of their website, he is now being treated at the national cancer institute and the patient advocates have even provided him with financial assistance so he could afford a place to live during his chemotherapy. If he had not reached out to this website he would likely be homeless and more importantly in Hospice waiting to die. These people gave him his only chance at survival.

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Marc

    I’m 30 and I rebuilt a old home for my family and wife that was pregnant. I ripped up the floors and underneath there was old piping covered with asbestos insulation. For 3 days I had a heavy dose of asbestos into my lungs. I almost knew immediately I had done some damage.

    It’s been almost exactly a year and I have shortness of breath and I fear that the damage I have done is permanent.

    I’ve lived a extremely healthy lifestyle. I’m a 5 time Ironman Triathlon finisher racing for 140.6 miles.

    I fear I had a extremely heavy dose to asbestos. I fear for how I can breath now and how long I may have.

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