Mesothelioma Chemotherapy - Do You Know the Schedule of Treatment and Common Side Effects?

Chemotherapy Schedules

How often you will receive chemotherapy will be determined by your doctor, taking into consideration factors such as the stage of your cancer, the types of drugs you receive, the anticipated toxicities of the drugs and the time necessary for your body to recover from these toxicities. The doctor may also consider whether the goal of the chemotherapy is to control the growth of the cancer, or to ease symptoms associated with the disease.

In general, chemotherapy treatment is administered in "cycles" - a "cycle" being defined as a period of treatment followed by a period of rest. This cycle allows the cancer cells to be attacked by the drugs, and then allows the body's normal cells time to recover. The combination of drugs used, the length of time to administer the drugs, how often they should be repeated and the number of cycles recommended have been analyzed very well in clinical trials.

For mesothelioma patients, the "standard" treatment is a combination of Alimta and cisplatin, administered IV, with a 10 minute infusion of Alimta followed by two hours of cisplatin, given in 21 day cycles. Modifications to this schedule may be made according to what your doctor feels is appropriate in your particular case.

The number of treatment cycles, or the length of time between the beginning and end of chemotherapy may vary, however in general, 3 to 4 cycles of treatment are given before response is evaluated; 2 to 3 cycles are considered a minimum to assess for effectiveness. After response to the treatment has been determined, the following criteria will be used to decide whether chemotherapy should continue:

• If there is shrinkage of the tumor, or the disease is kept stable, chemotherapy may be continued for as long as it can be tolerated and there is no disease progression.

• If there is continued disease progression, chemotherapy will be stopped, and the patient will be given alternative options.

The goal of setting a chemotherapy schedule is to make treatment as effective, timely and trouble-free as possible, but while the drugs are working to kill cancer cells, they may also affect healthy cells causing side effects.

Common Side Effects of Chemotherapy Includes:
-Fever of, or greater than 101 degrees
-Diarrhea or constipation
-Tingling or numbness in the fingers or toes
-Ringing in the ears
-Bruises or rashes
-Sores in the mouth or throat
-Reduced white blood cell count {neutropenia} making you more prone to infections. For this reason your full blood count should be monitored closely.

Be sure you report all over-the-counter and prescribed medicines to your physician. Don't take aspirin unless it has been approved by your physician. Ask your pharmacist if aspirin is part of the drugs you want to purchase.

Stay away from people who have colds or the flu. Chemotherapy can compromise your immune system and lower your resistance to germs.

It is normal to feel sad, angry or afraid, however, letting these emotions get out of control can affect negatively your overall well-being. Look out for the help of family, friends, your doctor, a counselor or a support group.

Chemotherapy treatment should be a cooperative effort between you and your doctor. The interaction that takes place is important to your health. It will not only help you feel better, but will also address any potential problems with improper communication.

Patients should educate themselves about mesothelioma and treatment options and reach out to available resources to make coping with a mesothelioma diagnosis easier.

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