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Chemotherapy Treatment for Mesothelioma

Just like the word infers, chemotherapy is “chemical therapy” and is a form of treatment that was developed in the 1940’s. Systemic chemotherapy is administered by pill or through intravenous methods and travels directly through the bloodstream also affecting cells other than cancer cells. This is why chemotherapy has such strong side effects on the rest of the body. Intrapleural chemotherapy is an injection of chemicals directly into the pleura, therefore not affecting healthy cells in the body as significantly.

Alimta/Cisplatin Chemotherapy

Alimta is a chemotherapy medication that is administered to mesothelioma patients intravenously. Alimta is used to treat pleural mesothelioma and is usually administered with Cisplatin, another chemotherapy drug. Both Alimta and Cisplatin are used to treat mesothelioma patients when surgery is no longer an option. Alimta is designed to block or interfere with the creation of cancer cells, targeting three specific enzymes that are vital in cancer cell production.

Alimta is a three-week treatment process that runs every 21 days. During the treatment process, Cisplatin is administered for two hours approximately 30 minutes after the end of the Alimta treatment.

What Are The Possible Side Effects of Alimta?

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood cell production
  • Fatigue
  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores

Nausea and vomiting are the most common side effects and affects 8 out of 10 patients, while diarrhea, mouth sores and loss of appetite affect less than
25 percent of patients.

Gemzar Chemotherapy

Gemzar is an anti-cancer chemotherapy drug and is classified as an antimetabolite. Gemzar treatments are normally administered to patients who have pancreatic cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (mesothelioma), soft-tissue sarcoma, bladder cancer, and metastatic breast cancer.

Gemzar is similar to Alimta as it also blocks or interferes with the cancer cell growth process. Gemzar is given intravenously and should not to be given
if a patient is also undergoing radiation therapy. Gemzar treatment dosages are dependent on a patient’s general overall health, weight, height, and cancer type.

What Are The Possible Side Effects of Gemzar?

  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Mouth sores
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Shortness of breath
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin rashes
  • Low blood count (usually in between Gemzar cycles)

Mitomycin / Mutamycin Chemotherapy

Mitomycin is an anti-cancer drug classified as an antitumor antibiotic that is administered intravenously. Mitomycin is used to treat cancers of the stomach, bladder, pancreas, breast, cervical, colorectal, head and neck, and non-small cell lung cancers, such as mesothelioma.

Mitomycin is a vesicant drug, which means it is a chemical that causes extensive tissue damage and blistering and it must be administered by a well-trained physician and/or nurse in order to avoid any leaking from the veins during treatment. If any redness or swelling is seen at the IV site, contact a physician immediately. The amount in each cycle of mitomycin is determined by the physician and is based on overall health, weight, height, and type of cancer.

What Are The Possible Side Effects of Mitomycin?

  • Low blood count
  • Mouth sores
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Alopecia (hair loss)

How to Lessen Side Effects from Chemotherapy

In order to achieve a higher level of comfort during treatment cycles, patients are recommended to:

  • Soothe any pain or swelling with ice when needed
  • Drink at least 2 quarts of water daily
  • Avoid crowds or crowded places due to weak immune system as they are prone
    to infections
  • Treat and prevent mouth sores with a soft toothbrush and a mixture of salt,
    baking soda and water
  • Take anti-nausea medications as needed
  • Eat small, frequent meals
  • Avoid sun exposure without SPF
  • Keep alcohol intake at a minimum or avoid altogether

Important Safety Tips Before Beginning Chemotherapy Treatment

Prior to beginning mitomycin treatments, it is important to disclose all medications taken with your physician. This will include all prescriptive medicines, as well as over-the-counter medicines. You are not to receive any immunizations without a physician’s approval.

Patients should inform their physician if they know they are pregnant, plan to be pregnant, or are pregnant. Breast feeding is not allowed during mitomycin treatment cycles. Patients should be aware that their immune systems will be weak and are more prone to infections when receiving any chemotherapy such as Alimta, Gemzar, or Mitomycin.

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