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Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma

When most people think about cancer treatment, they usually think about chemotherapy. That’s because chemotherapy is the most commonly used and effective treatment for all types of cancer, including asbestos-induced cancers.

Developed in the 1940s, chemotherapy uses medications to kill cancer cells and stop the cell-division process. Today there are more than 100 types of chemotherapy drugs targeted for specific kinds of cancer. While chemotherapy cannot cure asbestos cancer, it can help alleviate the disease and the symptoms. It is used in all stages of the disease but is especially useful for patients in the later stages, including in palliative measures.

How Can Chemotherapy Help Asbestos-Cancer Patients?

Chemotherapy stops cancer cells from rapidly dividing, thereby slowing or stopping the growth of tumors. It alleviates the symptoms of asbestos cancer by lessening the spread of the disease, reducing tumor size and extending the patient’s prognosis.

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Types of Chemotherapy

When determining the course of chemotherapy, doctors look at several factors including the extent of the disease, the general health of the patient and the types of drugs that will be used. There are two general types of chemotherapy drugs that are used specifically in asbestos-cancer patients:

  • Systematic Chemotherapy - This is used when doctors are unsure about the spread of the disease and want to ensure that all of the cancer cells in the body are killed. This type of chemotherapy is administered through a vein or in pill form. The medication circulates through the body via the bloodstream.
  • Intrapleural or Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy - When physicians have a more specific knowledge about the location of the cancer they depend on this localized version of chemotherapy. During a surgical procedure, the abdominal or chest cavity is bathed in chemotherapy that is sometimes heated to about 100 degrees to more easily kill the cancerous cells.

What Chemotherapy Drugs are used for Mesothelioma Treatment?

Frequently, asbestos cancer is treated with two or more chemotherapy drugs for the best outcome. The combination of Alimta and cisplatin is most commonly used for pleural mesothelioma. Both of these drugs are typically given through a vein.

Other commonly used chemotherapy drugs used in asbestos-cancer patients include carboplatin, gemcitabine, onconase and navelbine. It is up to the doctor to determine which combination of drugs is the best for each individual patient. For this reason and others, it is important to have a skilled asbestos-cancer specialist working for you. These specialists understand the commonalities among asbestos-cancer patients and the intricacies of the disease.

What Kind of Side Effects Should Patient's Expect?

Like other forms of chemotherapy, the expected side effects can range from patient to patient. Chemotherapy drugs that are being made today are not only more effective than in the past years but also bring on less side effects. Still, asbestos-cancer chemotherapy patients can expect some side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Hair Loss
  • Chance of Infection
  • Fatigue
  • Bruising

Why Seek Treatment from a Mesothelioma Specialist?

It’s important to have a doctor who specializes in asbestos-cancer treatment because this disease is not like any other cancer. It is a rare cancer and should be treated as such. Only a skilled asbestos-cancer physician will be able to guide you through your treatment with confidence and expertise.


American Cancer Society. “Chemotherapy for malignant mesothelioma.” Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignantmesothelioma/detailedguide/malignant-…

Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Cytoreductive Surgery and Heated Chemotherapy for Gastrointestinal Cancers.” Retrieved from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heated_chemotherapy