Kamis, 20 Maret 2008

Mesothelioma Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is often one component of mesothelioma treatment that is difficult for the lay person to grasp. Part of the problem is that the literature dealing with this subject is jargon intensive. The other problem is that the science and research are ever advancing. Understanding chemotherapy is truly a moving target. As a nurse, I can assist in cutting through some of the medical jargon, but I would be remiss if I didn't inform patients at the beginning that the principle source of information should be their oncologist, or cancer specialist doctor.

Your oncology doctor is reading all the latest research, and is highly motivated to defeat your cancer, and extend your life. Ask all of your questions without holding back.

All three of the basic approaches to treating mesothelioma; surgery, radiation therapy, and chemogtherapy, are potentially frightening to a patient. Chemotherapy is perhaps a little more difficult to penetrate rationally, and weigh the risks, versus rewards. Certainly, the list of possible side effects is quite intimidating. Mesothelioma, however, is a killer and you must trust your oncologist as he will want to throw everything that he thinks can work at this disease.

If surgery is an option for you, it may be followed by radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy in order to try to kill the microscopic cancer cells that remain in your body.

The chemotherapy agents that your doctor selects will often be a combination or recipe of drugs that when used together have better outcomes than when used by themselves.

One of the medications that you may encounter is Cisplatin. Cisplatin messes up the DNA strands inside cancer cells by crossing them during cell division and causing these abnormal DNA-crossed cells to die. Another medication , doxorubicin forms free radicals that fracture the DNA strands inside cancer cells. Pemetoexed slows or stops tumor growth by blocking cell enzymes required for the production of RNA and DNA. There are many others, and there are treatment programs that combine medications with radiation. Your treatment will be customized for your specific needs.

All chemotherapy agents have some possible side effects. Remember though, drugs affect different people differently. Fatigue affects many cancer patients, often due to anemia. You will probably be taking high potency vitamins to help combat this. Other blood changes that may occur are low platelets, affecting blood clotting, and low white blood cells, which can affect your resistance to infection. You may experience various gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation. You may also develop yeast infections, and sores in the mouth. There is also a condition known as "chemo brain". "Chemo brain" is difficulty concentrating, focusing, fuzziness, and poor memory. Side effects may cause you to make some lifestyle changes during the chemotherapy treatment. These side effects ease and go away after the round of chemo is complete.

When you are receiving chemotherapy, what is happening is that the chemo is attacking the cancer cells. Unfortunately, some of the normal cells are also affected. This is why most of the side effects occur. The normal cells that are affected are primarily the fast growing cells. Cancers themselves are fast growing cells. Normal fast growing cells are the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced, the blood cells themselves, the digestive tract including the mouth and stomach, and the hair follicles. Some drugs affect vital organs as well.

Your close relationship with your oncologist is very important. Defeating mesothelioma is a team effort, and he is your quarterback. You are the team owner, so you must play an active role.

Ed Desmond is a small business owner, and works as a Registered Nurse. For more on mesothelioma treatment see Mesothelioma Treatment Articles and resources about mesothelioma treatment.

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