Chemotherapy is synonymous with cancer. Most people who undergo treatment for a tumor receive chemotherapy. The same is true for mesothelioma.
Chemotherapy is the routine form of care used for this rare cancer. It can be used on its own or paired with surgery and radiation, but it’s undoubtedly the most common option.
According to a Journal of Thoracic Disease, only 20% of patients are candidates for surgery. The remaining 80% undergo some form of chemotherapy as their first treatment. The two chemotherapy drugs approved for mesothelioma are cisplatin and pemetrexed.
We compiled a list of questions people often ask our medical staff about chemotherapy for mesothelioma. We hope this information helps you. If you need further assistance, reach out to our registered nurse Jenna Campagna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Does Chemotherapy Work?
Chemotherapy is a chemical drug with one purpose: kill cells that are growing and replicating abnormally fast in your body.
Cancer cells, including mesothelioma cells, are mutated. They grow faster than healthy ones, and they don’t die in the normal cell life cycle. Cancer cells also replicate, forming new mutant cells that spread like a virus in the body.
Chemotherapy targets cells with these characteristics. Doctors either insert chemotherapy into the vein, which sends the chemicals through your bloodstream, or administer a heated version directly to the disease’s location.
What Is the Difference Between Traditional Chemotherapy and Hyperthermic Chemotherapy?
There are two main types of chemotherapy for mesothelioma. Traditional chemotherapy is intravenous chemotherapy. Doctors inject the drugs into your bloodstream, where it travels through your body and kills mesothelioma cells.
Hyperthermic chemotherapy is a heated form of this treatment. It’s usually used during or immediately following surgery. This method avoids chemotherapy attacking healthy blood cells and tissue. It’s traditionally used for cancers, like mesothelioma, forming in or near large regions of the body. Mesothelioma forms in the lining close to either your chest or stomach.
How Does HIPEC Work?
HIPEC stands for hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy. It’s explicitly for peritoneal mesothelioma.
HIPEC usually follows surgery. Once the surgical team removes as many tumors as possible, doctors deliver hot, liquid chemotherapy into your abdomen. HIPEC bathes the region for a few hours, which can attack any unresolved mesothelioma cells left over from the operation.
HIPEC is a type of heated intraoperative chemotherapy (HIOC). Researchers are also investigating hot chemotherapy for pleural mesothelioma.
Doctors sometimes leave in “ports” for future rounds of heated chemotherapy. These ports serve as channels to deliver chemotherapy directly into the thorax or abdomen weeks or months after surgery.
How Long Does Chemotherapy Take?
Chemotherapy varies in length and depends on your specific circumstances. Chemotherapy for mesothelioma usually lasts 2-3 hours if the method is intravenous. Doctors typically prescribe 2-6 rounds, which are also called “cycles.” These cycles are spaced out 21 days apart.
The number of cycles depends on the cancer center’s guidelines and how well your mesothelioma responds to the treatment.
Heated intraoperative methods are different. According to the University of Maryland Cancer Center, HIPEC lasts 1-2 hours. Patients usually only go through one round of this treatment.
What Are My Survival Chances With Chemotherapy?
Mesothelioma spreads quickly, and the general prognosis is 1-2 years. Surgery helps, but most people aren’t healthy enough to endure an aggressive operation.
In one study, the combination of chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and pemetrexed resulted in a median survival of 12 months. Another study confirmed the one-year survival average.
With no treatment at all, survival usually lasts for just a few months. Chemotherapy extends life by up to a year on its own. In some cases, it has reduced the cancer enough to consider surgery.
What Are the Risks of Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma?
Similar to being synonymous with cancer, chemotherapy is also synonymous with specific side effects. Most people know that chemotherapy comes with some unwanted reactions:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low white blood cell count
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Weak bones and muscles
Each patient should weigh the benefits and challenges of chemotherapy and decide if it’s right for them. We at Mesothelioma Guide suggest you consider contacting a mesothelioma doctor if you’re interested in starting the treatment for your cancer.
Show Sources & Author
- Chemotherapy treatment in malignant pleural mesothelioma: a difficult history. Journal of Thoracic Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5830568/. Accessed: 07/29/2020.
- Chemotherapy for Malignant Mesothelioma. NYU Langone Health. Retrieved from: https://nyulangone.org/conditions/malignant-mesothelioma/treatments/chemotherapy-for-malignant-mesothelioma. Accessed: 07/29/2020.
- Cytoreductive Surgery and HIPEC – FAQs. University of Maryland Cancer Center. Retrieved from: https://www.umms.org/umgccc/cancer-services/cancer-types/gastrointestinal/diagnostic-treatment/peritoneal-surface-malignancies/cytoreductive-surgery-hipec. Accessed: 07/29/2020.
- Chemotherapy for Malignant Mesothelioma. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/treating/chemotherapy.html. Accessed: 07/29/2020.