Mesothelioma Attorneys

Chemotherapy Treatment for Mesothelioma

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Chemotherapy is possibly the most effective traditional cancer treatment for mesothelioma. In some patients it is purely palliative, but in some patients who are in the final stages it can still control the cancer and stop its growth. Chemotherapy is usually recommended for patients who are not good candidates for surgery, or for use in conjunction with surgery. Chemotherapy has serious side effects, but it can be very effective in relieving pain and extending life.

How Chemotherapy is Used to Treat Mesothelioma

Chemotherapy may be used in combination with surgery or radiation in bimodal treatment or both in trimodal treatment. Chemotherapy is used for several purposes in mesothelioma patients:

  • To stop the spread or slow the growth of the cancer
  • Neoadjuvant – shrink tumors in preparation for surgery
  • Adjuvant – destroy remaining cancer cells after surgery
  • Palliative – to relive symptoms including pain

Types of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy has been found to be far more effective when more than one chemotherapy drug is used. Alimta (pemetrexed) is the only drug approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for treating mesothelioma. In pleural mesothelioma Altima is typically used in combination with cisplatin.

Chemotherapy drugs may be injected into a vein or directly into the area of the body affected by the cancer. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy involved circulating chemotherapy drug throughout the abdominal cavity and is used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Public awareness of cancer has made most people at least vaguely aware of the side effects of chemotherapy. Hair loss and nausea are signature side effects, often explained by frightening statements such as, “chemotherapy poisons you and the cancer at the same time, in the hopes of killing off the cancer before it kills you.” While there is an element of truth to that explanation, it is oversimplifying.

Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill cells that divide and grow rapidly, by stopping them from multiplying. This includes cancer cells, but it also includes certain types of healthy cells. The damage to normal cells is what causes the side effects of chemotherapy.

The normal cells which are typically harmed by chemotherapy are fast-growing cells, such as hair follicles and those in the digestive tract. Some types of chemotherapy can harm other parts of the body. The side effects of chemotherapy gradually subside in most patients, after treatment has ceased. Your doctor will discuss the risks and side effects with you before you make a decision whether to move forward with treatment.