Chemotherapy is an option of treatment for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. If diagnosed, you must find out about the benefits and side-effects of chemotherapy for mesothelioma before treatment begins.
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer of the mesothelium. Mesothelium is the thin membrane that covers the lungs, stomach, and heart. The prime function of the mesothelium is to release a small amount of lubricating fluid which helps the organs to move freely without any friction. The membrane covering the lungs is known as pleura, membrane covering the stomach is known as peritoneum, and membrane covering the heart is known as pericardium. Over 80% of those suffering from mesothelioma are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
Asbestos exposure is the prime cause of mesothelioma. The main problem with mesothelioma is that it takes approximately 30 to 40 years after initial exposure for symptoms to show. Most of these symptoms are common with other more common ailments such as the common cold and flu. Almost always serious damage is already done by the time mesothelioma is diagnosed.
Treatments for Mesothelioma
Once mesothelioma is diagnosed the physician/surgeon will decide on the course of treatment depending on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed, the age and general physical health of the patient. Options for mesothelioma treatment include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Since there is no permanent cure for mesothelioma, many unconventional forms of treatment are combined with these methods.
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a therapy which makes use of certain medicines/drugs to treat cancer. Surgery or radiation therapy remove or destroy cancer cells in a particular area. This is where chemotherapy differs vastly from these two treatments. Chemotherapy works on the entire body, and is able to destroy metastasized cancer cells that have spread to distant parts away from the primary tumor.
There are a vast number of chemotherapy drugs currently in use, and your physician/surgeon may use a single drug (chemotherapy) or a combination of drugs (combination chemotherapy) to treat the cancer. Combination chemotherapy is preferred because drugs used in combination tend to work more effectively and the chances of the body becoming resistant to the drugs is reduced.
Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma
The surgeon will decide on what treatment option best suits a person with mesothelioma. Factors such as the stage of the cancer and the person’s physical health are taken into account and the treatment is decided as per that. Surgery and radiation therapy are options besides chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is usually given through a vein as a drip, or as an injection into the bloodstream. If found suitable the drugs may be put directly into the chest/abdominal cavity. Chemotherapy is not done at a stretch, but is broken down into a number of cycles. Treatment continues for a few days after which it is stopped for a few weeks so that the body can recover from the side-effects of chemotherapy. After the body has recovered, another cycle begins. The number of cycles depend on the stage at which mesothelioma is diagnosed, the type of drugs used, and the body’s response to chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy comes with a host of undesirable side-effects. Certain side-effects are common, notwithstanding the type of drugs used in treatment. Some side-effects will depend on the type of drugs used, amount of drugs used, and the number of treatment cycles.
Side-effects of chemotherapy could include one or more of the following.
— Exhaustion without exertion
— Hair loss
Hair Loss during Chemotherapy
Almost everyone undergoing chemotherapy for mesothelioma will suffer from hair loss which could be mild to severe. Hair loss usually begins within 2 weeks of chemotherapy, getting worse as treatment continues, finally improving only after a couple of months of the treatment being stopped. This sudden hair fall could cause a lot of stress to most patients, especially women. What should be understood here is that the hair will grow back once the treatment is stopped.
Nausea and Vomiting during Chemotherapy
Vomiting and nausea are other common side-effects of chemotherapy during mesothelioma treatment. It is suggested that the patient should eat very small meals throughout the day instead of having 3 large meals. Never eat hurriedly, always chew the food thoroughly to make digestion easier. Until chemotherapy is stopped the patient must avoid eating any sort of fried foods, fatty foods, sweets, and avoid/reduce the amount of meat intake. It is best to have a lot of fresh vegetables. Ask the physician for advice on what to eat and what to avoid.
Find the Side effects of Chemotherapy Before Treatment Begins
Many patients suffering from mesothelioma are not aware of the side-effects of chemotherapy. If they go into treatment without knowing all the side-effects, it could be very difficult on them, causing unwanted stress. If diagnosed with mesothelioma, and the surgeon decides to go in for chemotherapy, find out about all the possible side-effects and what measures could be taken to reduce them.
Once chemotherapy has begun, let your surgeon know of all the side-effects that you face, however minor. These side-effects could be minimized with further medication making life for the patient more comfortable.