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Home > Mesothelioma articles > Side effects of mesothelioma treatment

Side effects of mesothelioma treatment

There are some side effects in each type of mesothelioma treatment.

Chemotherapy commonly causes nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and low blood cell counts that lead to anemia and risk of infections. With chemotherapy, people often lose their hair, but side effects vary according to the type of drug.

Nausea and vomiting can usually be prevented or relieved with drugs (antiemetics). Nausea may be reduced without using drugs by eating small meals and by avoiding foods that are high in fiber, that produce gas, or that are very hot or very cold.

Most mesothelioma patients undergoing chemotherapy feel tired, and even exhausted. You may want to have a friend or relative drive you to your chemotherapy appointment. Besides providing emotional support, he or she can make sure you get home safely. If possible, try to minimize projects or chores for the first few days after a mesothelioma chemotherapy treatment. Consider planning your day so that you get plenty of rest. Some cancer patients say that yoga or meditation is helpful and calming during this stressful time. Doctors also recommend very light exercise such as a short walk to keep you in balance and lessen fatigue.

Chemotherapy sometimes causes anemia, which is a decrease in the level of red blood cells. Anemia can be one cause of fatigue. It may respond to iron supplements and erythropoietin, a substance that is normally produced by the kidneys and that stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells. Your doctor will determine if treatment with erythropoietin is appropriate based on blood tests and the severity of your anemia.

The severity of mesothelioma chemotherapy side effects varies with the person and with the drug. For example, cisplatin, a drug used in chemotherapy for mesothelioma patients, often causes nausea and vomiting. Some other chemotherapy drugs would be less likely to do so.

The important point is that you discuss possible side effects with your doctor before you begin taking a particular chemotherapy drug or drug combination. This will help both of you weigh the drug benefits against its risks and problems. But your communication should not stop there. Make sure to tell your doctor about any side effects and health concerns both during and after the chemotherapy. He or she may find ways to minimize the side effects of chemotherapy and will also know if your health issues require immediate attention.

Side effects from radiation therapy depend on how large an area is being treated, the dose given, and the tumor's proximity to sensitive tissues. For example, radiation to head and neck tumors often causes damage to the overlying skin. Radiation to the stomach or abdomen often causes irritation of the stomach (gastritis) and of the intestine (enteritis), resulting in nausea, lack of appetite, and diarrhea.

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