Living beyond expectations: a qualitative study into the experience of long-term survivors with pleural mesothelioma and their carers
BMJ Open Respiratory Research 2022 May [Link]
Matthew Johnson, Peter Allmark, Angela Tod
Background: Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is characterised by poor prognosis and limited treatment options. However, a minority of patients can survive well beyond these bleak estimates. Little is known about the specific experiences and needs of long-term survivors and families.
Study purpose: The study aimed to gain in-depth understanding of the experiences of patients diagnosed with MPM 3 or more years, along with their main carer, and to determine the care and support needs of this group.
Participants and setting: People diagnosed with MPM 3 or more years were recruited via asbestos and mesothelioma social media and support groups. Potential participants were asked to identify someone who acted as their main carer.
Method: The study employed a cross-sectional qualitative interview design. A topic guide aided a conversational interview style, conducted remotely and recorded. Patient and carer pairs were interviewed jointly when possible, but were given an option for separate interviews if preferred. Fifteen patients, with 14 identifying a main carer, consented to participation.
Analysis: Recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim, and then anonymised by the interviewer. Framework analysis was used to analyse the data iteratively and to develop final themes.
Findings: Three themes were developed. Participants ‘Living beyond expectations’ remained acutely aware that MPM was incurable, but developed a range of coping strategies. Periods of disease stability were punctuated with crises of progression or treatment ending, straining coping. ‘Accessing treatment’ was important for patients and carers, despite the associated challenges. They were aware options were limited, and actively sought new treatments and clinical trials. ‘Support needs’ were met by healthcare professionals, voluntary groups and social media networks.
Conclusions: Managing patients via regional MPM multidisciplinary teams, facilitating equal access to treatment and trials, could reduce patient and carer burden. Greater awareness and support around crisis points for this group could improve care.