Mesothelioma and Chemotherapy
When used to treat mesothelioma, chemotherapy has shown promising results. Not only does it kill cancerous cells, it lessens symptoms and extends your survival. This versatile treatment may be used alone or in conjunction with radiation. It is often recommended when patients are not eligible for surgery. It may also be used before or after surgery.
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy works by using chemicals to attack cancerous cells and reduce the size of tumors. In doing so, chemotherapy prevents cells from further dividing and spreading throughout your body. It also alleviates painful mesothelioma symptoms and may even prevent them from returning.
Types of Chemotherapy and Common Drugs
If your doctor believes chemotherapy is right for you, you will undergo treatment in one of two ways. The first method is called systemic chemotherapy, which involves taking medications through injection or in a pill. The medication travels throughout your body to kill cancer cells. However, healthy cells are often injured as well, and side effects may be intense.
Instead, you might receive intrapleural or intraperitoneal chemotherapy. In this method, the medication is delivered to the affected area through a small tube. Because the delivery method is more targeted, you might not experience such severe side effects.
Through one of these methods, you may receive one or more medications. The most commonly used medication is Alimta, which has seen the most success. It is administered through your veins and often requires you to also take additional supplements to combat side effects. The drug may be used with Cisplatin, which is also delivered intravenously.
Another option is Carboplatin, which has less serious side effects than Cisplatin and may be used with Gemcitabine. Yet another medication is Onconase, a newer drug that damages fewer healthy cells. Navelbine may be used as well, especially with Cisplatin, and can be delivered by mouth or through an IV. Other chemotherapy drugs include mitomycin, raltitrexed, and vinorelbine.
Which chemotherapy drug or drugs you receive depends on your condition. Your doctor will consider the possible side effects and design a combination that is right for you.
Chemotherapy Side Effects
Because chemotherapy is an intense treatment method, it unfortunately carries some unpleasant side effects. However, many of these side effects go away after a short time, and your doctor will monitor you and help you control or prevent them.
A common side effect is called “chemo brain” and involves memory loss and trouble concentrating. It usually goes away after therapy has ended. Many patients also experience hair loss and mouth sores as well as nausea and vomiting. In addition, patients may be extremely sleepy or find that they bruise and bleed easily. Others have a hard time fighting infection. However, patients taking new medications may experience fewer or milder side effects.
Be sure to let your doctor know if these side effects become severe. Your doctor may need to adjust your medication so that you can feel more like yourself and better fight your condition.