How Chemotherapy Can Help Treat Mesothelioma

The Basics of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that was once widely used in various industries due to its heat-resistant properties. Mesothelioma usually takes decades to develop, and symptoms may not appear until the cancer is in advanced stages.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It works by targeting fast-growing cells, such as cancer cells, and preventing them from multiplying. Chemotherapy can be given in various ways, including pills, injections, and infusions. The type of chemotherapy and the way it is given depends on the type and stage of cancer.

How Does Chemotherapy Work for Mesothelioma?

Chemotherapy can be used as a primary treatment for mesothelioma, or it can be used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery and radiation therapy. The goal of chemotherapy for mesothelioma is to shrink the tumor, relieve symptoms, and prolong survival. The drugs used in mesothelioma chemotherapy are often a combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin. Pemetrexed is a drug that blocks the enzymes that cancer cells need to grow and divide, while cisplatin is a drug that damages the DNA in cancer cells, preventing them from multiplying.

Chemotherapy as a Primary Treatment for Mesothelioma

Chemotherapy can be used as a primary treatment for mesothelioma if the cancer is in an early stage and can be completely removed with surgery. This is known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy can help shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove. After surgery, adjuvant chemotherapy may be given to destroy any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

Chemotherapy as a Palliative Treatment for Mesothelioma

Chemotherapy can also be used as a palliative treatment for mesothelioma. Palliative treatment aims to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for patients with advanced cancer. Chemotherapy can help shrink the tumor and relieve symptoms, such as pain and difficulty breathing.

Potential Side Effects of Mesothelioma Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can cause side effects, as it not only targets fast-growing cancer cells but also healthy cells. The side effects depend on the type of chemotherapy and the dosage, and may include:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • Low blood cell counts
However, many side effects can be managed with medications and other therapies.


Chemotherapy can be an effective treatment for mesothelioma, whether as a primary or palliative therapy. The drugs used for mesothelioma chemotherapy target cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. Side effects are possible, but they can be managed with proper care and medication. Mesothelioma patients should discuss their treatment options with their doctor, as each patient’s case is unique.


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