Patient Undergoing Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the administration of drugs in order to treat mesothelioma cancer. Most of these drugs circulate in the bloodstream in order to reach cancer cells in the body for the purpose of either killing these cancerous cells or for stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may also be used to shrink a tumor before surgery is performed on the patient; a procedure that is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy. It can also be used to eliminate the remaining cancerous cells that may remain after surgery; a procedure that is called adjuvant chemotherapy.  These drugs can also be administered in order to relieve symptoms such as pain and other discomforts.

Chemotherapy drugs can be taken in a number of ways such as:

  •  Injected through the vein (intravenous)
  •  Directly into the chest cavity ( intrapleurally)
  •  Directly into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneally)
  •  By mouth (Orally)
  •  Directly into other areas of the body

The method most commonly used to administer chemotherapy drugs is intravenously. When these drugs are taken by mouth or through the blood stream (intravenously) they reach the whole body. In this case chemotherapy treats the whole body and it is often called a ‘systemic treatment'. When these drugs are placed directly into the chest cavity, the abdominal cavity or other areas of the body, it is called regional chemotherapy and it has an effect only on these areas. In the case of intravenous administration (administration through the veins), drugs are usually administered through a thin needle. If the patients suffer from peritoneal mesothelioma, drugs may be delivered through a port or catcher directly into the abdominal cavity

Chemotherapy drugs are given according to a plan. The full course takes approximately from 3 to 6 months. A course is divided into various cycles, where a cycle consists of the time you take the treatment and a recovery period, where your body is allowed to recover from the effects of the treatment.

Chemotherapy can also affect other benign cells of your body such as cells of the gastrointestinal system (a part of the digestive system that absorbs food into the body such as the stomach, intestines and other organs), cells of the hair follicles and cells in the blood. Like cancerous cells, these benign cells are also fast growing cells but unlike cancerous cells they have important functions to perform in our bodies.

It is important to be very careful in the administration of chemotherapy drugs since these drugs are very toxic and can have a variety of side effects. Among others; perhaps the most visible is that of hair loss. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and shortness of breath and the destruction of benign cells in the blood. The patient becomes more prone to the risk of infections, to bleed more easily after minor bruises and to suffer from fatigue. This is the result of the destruction of benign cells in the blood stream such as white cells (cells that fight infections), platelets (cells that help to form a clot) and red blood cells (blood cells that carry oxygen in our bodies).  Side effects depend on the type of drug administered and the duration of the treatment. Symptoms disappear some time after treatment is stopped. There are also drugs that help to reduce the negative side effects of chemotherapy. Any side effect must be promptly communicated to your physician.

Usually a combination of chemotherapy drugs are used for the treatment of mesothelioma cancer since a single drug is not so effective. Furthermore chemotherapy alone is usually not enough and a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery can be used. These therapies can be very exhausting for the body especially since many mesothelioma patients are usually quite advanced in their age, and so a proper assessment must be performed on the patient for his/her eligibility for a particular treatment or combination of treatments. The type of treatment depends also on the location, size, staging and invasion of the cancer of other organs of the body