The side effects of mesothelioma treatment depend on the type of treatment and may be different for each person. Side effects are often only temporary. Doctors and nurses can explain the possible side effects of treatment, and can suggest ways to help relieve symptoms that may occur during and after treatment.
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As the years pass and doctors and research scientists discover more and better drugs and procedures, they have tried to devise methods and medications to lessen the side effects of treatments. In general, people who have cancer in the 21st century suffer less from unpleasant side effects than patients did 10 to 20 years ago.
Surgery for mesothelioma is a major operation. After lung surgery, air and fluid tend to collect in the chest. Patients often need help turning over, coughing, and breathing deeply. These activities are important for recovery because they help expand the remaining lung tissue and get rid of excess air and fluid. Pain or weakness in the chest and the arm and shortness of breath are common side effects of lung cancer surgery. Patients may need several weeks or months to regain their energy and strength.
Most mesothelioma patients undergoing chemotherapy feel tired, and even exhausted. You may want to have a friend or relative drive you to your chemotherapy appointment. Besides providing emotional support, he or she can make sure you get home safely. If possible, try to minimize projects or chores for the first few days after a mesothelioma chemotherapy treatment. Consider planning your day so that you get plenty of rest. Some cancer patients say that yoga or meditation is helpful and calming during this stressful time. Doctors also recommend very light exercise such as a short walk to keep you in balance and lessen fatigue.
Mesothelioma radiation therapy stops the growth of rapidly dividing cells, such as mesothelioma cancer cells. Since normal cells in the lining of the bowel also divide rapidly, radiation treatment can stop those cells from growing, making it difficult for bowel tissue to repair itself. As bowel cells die and are not replaced, gastrointestinal problems develop over the next few days and weeks. Symptoms of acute enteritis usually get better 2 to 3 weeks after treatment ends.
Photodynamic therapy makes the skin and eyes sensitive to light for 6 weeks or more after treatment. Lung cancer patients are advised to avoid direct sunlight and bright indoor light for at least 6 weeks. If patients must go outdoors, they need to wear protective clothing, including sunglasses. Other temporary side effects of PDT may include coughing, trouble swallowing, and painful breathing or shortness of breath. Lung cancer patients should talk with their doctor about what to do if the skin becomes blistered, red, or swollen.
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