In mesothelioma treatment, several options for chemotherapy are available. Most chemotherapy drugs have specific side effects such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss, and increased vulnerability to infection. Any symptoms experienced while undergoing treatment with chemotherapeutic drugs should be reported to the doctor.
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What’s the problem?
Chemotherapy may be used to achieve different goals, depending on the stage of the mesothelioma at the time of diagnosis and the age and health of the patient. Since chemotherapy for mesothelioma is not considered “curative,” the goal is:
- To control the cancer by stopping its spread or slowing its growth.
- To shrink tumors prior to other treatments, such as surgery. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
- To destroy microscopic disease which may remain after surgery. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy.
- To relieve symptoms, such as pain. This is called palliative chemotherapy, and is given in cases when a drastic reduction in the tumor is not expected.
Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer, so doctors treat it as aggressively as possible. That includes the use of highly toxic chemo drugs that will, hopefully, help destroy cancer cells while also providing some relief from the bothersome side affects of the disease, such as coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Years ago, doctors opted for single chemotherapy treatments for the disease. Unfortunately, they yielded little more than approximately a 15% success rate, providing minimal relief to the mesothelioma patient. More recently, oncologists and research scientists have determined that the best way to fight mesothelioma is through combination chemotherapy.
Types of Mesothelioma Chemotherapy
There are various types of chemotherapy including:
- Neoadjuvant chemotherapy – is used to shrink a tumor prior to surgery or radiation therapy.
- Adjuvant chemotherapy – is used after surgery or radiation therapy to destroy remaining cancer cells.
- Systemic chemotherapy – uses anticancer drugs to destroy cancer cells throughout the body (hence the term “systemic”) as opposed to localized area. The drugs enter and circulate through the bloodstream after being administered orally, intravenously, or injected into a muscle.
- Intraperitoneal chemotherapy – involves the direct injection of anticancer drugs into the abdominal cavity using a thin tube.
- Intracavity chemotherapy – is an innovative approach to chemotherapy that is similar to intraperitoneal chemotherapy. The anticancer drugs are directly injected into the chest or abdominal cavity, where they can be administered at higher doses without causing the toxic effects they would if administered systemically through the bloodstream. The chemotherapy is then heated to increase its ability to kill cancer cells.
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