Nutritional Needs of Mesothelioma Patients

I must confess that, at one point, I also was part of the medical community who brushed off questions pertaining to nutritional support by advising patients to eat like a 12 year old boy and forget focusing on healthy ingredients.

A few years ago I have come to realize that this is not really helpful to an already debilitated patient seeking support.

So, who are the experts in the field and to whom should you turn to?

Many believe that their oncologist practices in a vacuum not welcoming input from others outside of the field of oncology but this is not so. In most academic practices we are taught to interface with our colleagues from other fields as their input can have a positive impact on patient care. Nutritionists play a vital role in determining the needs of the cancer patient.

To prepare for an appointment with a nutritionist, begin a diary recording meals and snacks as well as fluids. The ideal is to provide the nutritionist 2 days’ worth of records. It is best if the caregiver is the one to record, so the diet is not changed when focus on recording takes place. The nutritionist will not only use the diary as a guide, but will also order a series of blood tests that may pinpoint some irregularities that might need to be corrected.

If problems are found, there are two main types of intervention. They are the PPN (partial parenteral nutrition), delivered through a vein, or EN (enteral nutrition) – a tube feed.  These are generally covered by both private and public insurance and should be investigated early in the process of recognized malnutrition. The goal of both of these interventions is to return the patient to oral nutrition as soon as possible.

Why do you need to add yet another practitioner into your already complicated plan of care?

It is well known that cancer patients are at risk for malnutrition due to many factors which include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bowel obstructions, changes in taste and smell, and severe loss of appetite.  Most of the aforementioned problems fall outside of the patient’s ability to self-correct and interventions often fail thus necessitating either PPN or EN.

Ultimately, working with a nutritionist is important because a patient with good nutritional status is able to fight infection, evidences less depression and has more energy to actively partner with their caregiver and health care team to strive for the best possible outcomes despite the diagnosis of mesothelioma.

If you have more questions about this topic, or any others pertaining to mesothelioma, please contact Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner at

Memorial Day 2013

MemorialDay2013Memorial Day is the time when we honor those who served our country and paid the ultimate price for our freedom. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation honors those men and women who lost their lives as a result of their service, including those who served in the military and succumbed to malignant mesothelioma.

“In honor of those who have fallen victim to mesothelioma and for those who have been exposed and may develop mesothelioma in the future, the Foundation dedicates our efforts to continuing to fund peer-reviewed medical research that we hope will lead to prevention, early detection, more effective treatments and eventually a cure,” said General H. Steven Blum, a member of the Board of Directors of the Meso Foundation.

One third of mesothelioma patients are veterans, and were exposed to asbestos during their time of service. Those who serve in the military often go on to careers in the public sector serving as policemen, firemen and first responders where they again suffer the insult of asbestos exposure.

General Blum last served as Deputy Commander, U.S. Northern Command in addition to serving as Vice Commander, U.S. Element North American Aerospace Defense Command.  Prior to these last positions he served as the 25th Chief of the National Guard Bureau. He retired from both the Army and National Guard in 2010.

In addition to Gen. Blum, Dr. David S. Ettinger, another member of the Meso Foundation’s Board of Directors, also served in the military as Chief of Medicine at the Munson Army Hospital, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from July 1971 to June 1973.

Gen. Blum and Dr. Ettinger, on behalf of the entire mesothelioma community, thank all those men and women who have served and will serve in the future.

The American Cancer Society Turns 100

AmericanCancerSocietyThe Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation would like to celebrate with the American Cancer Society (ACS) as it is turning 100. The American Cancer Society has helped patients and family members deal with cancer and its effects by providing research funding, educational materials and support. To honor these years of dedication to preventing and treating cancer, the American Cancer Society is asking people to “take a Moment AGAINST Silence.” Statistics state that 2 out of 3 people will survive cancer but that is not enough. It should be 3 out of 3 people surviving. That is why the Meso Foundation is standing with the ACS to finish the fight against mesothelioma by taking a Moment AGAINST Silence. Cancer thrives on silence. The Meso Foundation is here to make noise so that everyone knows about mesothelioma and can get the help they need.

The Meso Foundation is proud to be recognized as the national non-profit for mesothelioma by ACS. The American Cancer Society refers patients to the Meso Foundation to make sure that a patient gets un-biased and accurate medical help from Mary Hesdorffer, NP, who has worked in the field of mesothelioma for over sixteen years.  The ACS knows that when they send patients and family members to the Foundation, they are receiving the latest in medical treatments and support. It is through collaborations like this that the Meso Foundation will continue to get make noise and eradicate the suffering of this disease.


Connecting the Dots

By Laurie Kazan-Alleexportprod-chartn

I am not one for graphs or bar charts but today I saw a diagram that really made sense. It plotted the levels of Canadian asbestos production from 1948 until 2002 alongside the incidence of asbestos-related deaths.[1] What was as clear as the nose on your face was the deadly impact that Canada’s asbestos industry has had on its citizens. Thirty years after asbestos production had peaked, asbestos-related mortality had reached an all-time high. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the cause and effect relationship between exposure to asbestos and disease. Wherever asbestos has been mined, processed or used, disease and death follows.

Mesothelioma mortality in Canada has been rising since the 1960s with 400+ deaths now being registered every year. Predictably mesothelioma hotspots include areas where asbestos exposure was rife including asbestos mining regions, shipyard towns and sites where asbestos was manufactured or processed. People in these locations have paid and will continue to pay with their lives for the profits of asbestos companies. In Ontario, the number of new mesothelioma diagnoses rose by 260% between 1982 (20) and 2002 (72). While the incidence of asbestosis seems to be in decline, there is no end in sight for Canada’s mesothelioma epidemic. Although Canadian epidemiologists believe that the incidence of this deadly cancer could decline after 2019, the presence of huge amounts of asbestos contained within the built and natural environment, leads one to question this optimistic forecast.

Commenting on this situation Mary Hesdorffer, the Director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, said:

“Despite the fact that Canadian asbestos production has now ceased, the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases means that we will, unfortunately, see many more cases of mesothelioma in the years to come. Each patient diagnosed has a family and friends, a community which will be devastated by this diagnosis. With all that is known about the effects asbestos has on human beings, it is beyond belief that neither Canada nor the U.S. has banned asbestos. Just what are they waiting for?”

Mary is right. The only way to bring the global asbestos catastrophe to an end is for the mining, sale and use of asbestos to be banned the world over. If not now, when?

Cancer Research Awareness Month: Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Screen Shot 2012-06-11 at 3.59.39 PMBy Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner and Executive Director of the Meso Foundation

In 1996 I began my career in clinical research which ultimately led to a focus solely on mesothelioma clinical research. At that time, there was no standard of care and clinical trials were being developed that would lead to some significant changes in the way we approach mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma trials were being written and patients enrolled. Today many of those patients are alive and able to share their experiences from those early efforts. Researchers and patients can now share their collaboration while traveling together through uncharted territories.

During those early years, Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) was being tested at a select number of centers around the country and has now become the standard of care in peritoneal mesothelioma. HIPEC refers to a procedure which starts with a debulking surgery (visible evidence of disease is removed along with a number of involved organs) that is followed by a heated profusion of chemotherapy, delivered directly into the abdomen in an attempt to kill any microscopic disease not removed during the surgical portion of the treatment modality.

The careers of some of the leading doctors in mesothelioma were being established and I am proud to say that most have remained focused on the care of patients with mesothelioma.  In 2004, the first ever international meeting focused on peritoneal mesothelioma took place. I was one of the participants and there was a sense of excitement in the room as we looked around and realized how many brilliant minds were focused on the treatment and understanding of peritoneal mesothelioma. Research has continued with a focus on the type of drugs used during HIPEC as well as ways to augment the response. Doctors are now studying the use of both HIPEC and intravenous therapy to see if they can continue to push the response and survival of those with peritoneal mesothelioma. We know what we do today due to the courage of those early patients and the brilliance of those early pioneers in mesothelioma research.

I refer mainly to these doctors though HIPEC has now been introduced and used for a variety of other cancers. I believe it is important that the researchers have access to tissue,  learn more about the lived experience of mesothelioma through interaction with mesothelioma families, and that new deliveries and new drugs continue to be tested to build upon what we already know. The Mesothelioma Virtual Tissue Bank is a vital resource to our community and our researchers are the ones who maintain and enrich the bank. If patients are directed to non-mesothelioma research centers then this precious source of data and information will be lost.

I have been part of the historical development of mesothelioma and it is my role to see to it that research continues to be funded and patients continue to be supported as they explore their clinical trial options.

If you would like to learn more about mesothelioma research or peritoneal mesothelioma, ask a question through our Ask the Expert feature now.