Chemotherapy is a common therapy that uses drugs to treat cancer. These drugs are administered either in a pill form, or injected by a needle into vein or muscle. Chemotherapy travels through the entire body to locate and destroy cancer cells, which poses a threat to the non-cancerous areas of the body. Unlike localized radiation therapy, chemotherapy affects all cells in the body and has the potential to destroy healthy cells. In patients with mesothelioma, however, the chemotherapy can be directly administered into the chest cavity (intraperitoneally) or into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneally).
A breakthrough chemotherapy drug called Alimta® is currently the first and only chemotherapy drug to be FDA approved to treat mesothelioma. This drug is also successful when used in conjunction with Cisplatin. Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) is also a very effective drug used in chemotherapy. Your doctor can help find the best chemotherapy drug that is suitable for you.
The use of chemotherapy can produce many unwanted side effects. Temporary side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, hair loss, loss of appetite, and mouth sores. Chemotherapy can damage cell counts, leaving patients with low blood cell counts. Side effects of this may include increased risk of infection, excess bleeding or bruising of minor cuts and injuries, and fatigue or shortness of breath. Some or most of these side effects can be reduced through the use of other medications. Chemotherapy is not for patients who are in the later stages of mesothelioma due to the debilitating side effects associated with this treatment. Make sure you consult with your doctor if you experience any side effects.