Chemotherapy may either be used alone to treat malignant mesothelioma or in conjunction with radiotherapy or before surgery to help to shrink the tumor. Chemotherapy is usually administered in one of two ways: systemically either through the veins or orally, or placed directly into the site of the tumor via a catheter (intrapleurally).
There are several drugs used in chemotherapy and some patients may be given a combination of two different chemotherapy drugs which are usually pemetrexed and cisplatin.
Chemotherapy works by killing cells which divide and grow quickly, and although this means the drugs target cancer cells, they also target other healthy cells which also grow quickly such as hair follicles, bone marrow, and the cells lining the mouth and stomach. For this reason, most people will suffer from side effects such as hair loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and because it attacks blood cells it will leave people more susceptible to infections and viruses. The side effects of chemotherapy pass once treatment has ended.
Malignant mesothelioma patients will usually have cycles of chemotherapy treatment which can last three to four weeks and then have a recovery period before the next cycle.
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