Chemotherapy is a treatment option that uses drugs to combat cancer cells and tumors. It may be used as the primary, standalone method of treatment to destroy a cancer growth or to reduce painful symptoms. Alternatively, it may be used in conjunction with other treatments to provide a more effective solution. After surgery, chemotherapy is often used to kill any remaining cancer cells. Coupled with radiation, the two treatments weaken cancer growths and break down tumors.
Chemotherapy drugs work by targeting different processes within the cancer cells. Because cancer cells grow rapidly, the drugs attack the processes that cause growth and cell division, preventing its spread and keeping it contained. They are typically given in cycles, allowing the body to rest after every three- to four-week treatment period.
These drugs are typically administered intravenously or orally. They are designed to kill fast-growing cells, so they may target hair and mouth cells as well as cancerous growths. This accounts for many of the side effects of chemotherapy, which include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Chemotherapy can also affect bone marrow, which lowers blood cell counts and weakens the patient's immune system.
There are many different kinds of chemotherapy drugs on the market, and more are being discovered as scientists learn more about mesothelioma. The drugs can be given one at a time or simultaneously as part of a combination therapy.
For example, gemcitabine is a drug commonly used to treat pancreatic, bladder, and breast cancer, and it has shown promise in fighting mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers. When combined with cisplatin, doctors have found a high response rate in attacking tumors. Alimta, a recently created drug, slows the spread of disease with fewer side effects than most other chemotherapy drugs. Carboplatin has also become a popular choice of doctors, as it stays in the blood stream longer than cisplatin, allowing it to be given in lower doses. As a result, patients typically experience fewer side effects.
The decision to use chemotherapy as a treatment for patients is an important one. Doctors take into account the stage of the disease, the general health of the patient, age, and other factors that may be affected by chemotherapy drugs. Patients must be able to handle a strict medicinal regimen so that the chemotherapy can be effective.