Chemotherapy and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma cells divide and multiply at a rapid pace, far quicker than healthy cells in the body. When cells replicate at high speeds, the process often leads to cancerous growths or tumors. Doctors treat mesothelioma patients with chemotherapy medications that either slow cell division or disrupt it entirely. Depending on the patient’s unique condition, a doctor may administer chemotherapy in two different ways:
Systemically – The medication is delivered intravenously or in pill form. This method isn’t as invasive but can destroy both cancerous and healthy cells, causing adverse side-effects.
Intraoperatively – Treatment is delivered directly to the affected parts of the body during a surgical procedure. Intrapleural chemotherapy and heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) are the two most common forms of intraoperative chemotherapy.
In some cases, doctors will perform a series of tests to determine the most effective treatment options for a patient. Recommendations are usually based on cancer stage, a patient’s general health, and health history.
How HIPEC Treatment Works
Some types of cancer are easier to treat than others, depending on the location of the tumors. Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdominal cavity, and reaching that area may be a challenge. In this situation, delivering chemotherapy systemically, or intravenously, may not be as effective.
Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) is one option for peritoneal mesothelioma patients. During HIPEC, a chemotherapy ‘wash’ is administered intraoperatively, offering a more targeted approach at destroying cancer cells, with fewer side effects. Once a surgeon has removed all visible lesions and tumors, a heated chemotherapy solution is applied inside the abdomen, killing any remaining microscopic cancer cells.
Are You Eligible for HIPEC Chemotherapy?
Ultimately, your doctor will determine if this treatment is the best course of action. Factors that disqualify a patient include:
- Having a serious chronic illness
- Retaining high-risk of tumor growth
- Not having an epithelial cell type
- Failing to be in good health for surgery
HIPEC Treatment Timeline
After the doctor has reviewed the patient and established eligibility for treatment, the next steps in the HIPEC chemotherapy process include:
Step 1 – Surgery
Before receiving HIPEC chemotherapy, a patient must undergo cytoreductive surgery to remove visible cancerous tumors within the abdomen.
Step 2 – Bath
During the “bath” process, the doctor surgically administers chemotherapy drugs directly into the patient’s abdominal cavity, or intraperitoneally. The solution is hyperthermic or heated to around 105 degrees. The surgeon will then circulate the sterile solution throughout the peritoneal cavity for approximately two hours, to kill any remaining cancerous cells.
Step 3 – Recovery
The recovery process after cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC can take several weeks, with patients may notice extreme fatigue for two or three months. It’s essential to rest during the recovery process, but patients must also balance rest with mild forms of physical activity. Doctors usually advise patients to continue doing activities they enjoy, while sticking to their predetermined goals. This way, patients realize how far they’ve come in the healing process, and fosters a more positive outlook.
Overwhelmed by your mesothelioma diagnosis or treatment? Download our free guide to learn more about the disease.
Benefits and Side-Effects of HIPEC Surgery
HIPEC chemotherapy offers some advantages for peritoneal mesothelioma patients, including:
- Higher doses of chemotherapy
- A targeted application of chemotherapy directly into the abdominal cavity lining
- Fewer side effects
While the side-effects of HIPEC chemotherapy are less severe than other types of chemo, a patient may still experience adverse side-effects, such as:
- Infection and healing issues
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Hair loss (infrequent)
HIPEC Chemotherapy Treatment Center Locations
Due to the intricacy of cytoreductive surgery and lack of HIPEC specialists, there is a limited number of hospitals and treatment centers that offer this procedure. Fortunately, there are resources available for patients to locate HIPEC treatment centers nearest to them. It’s as simple as entering a zip code and search radius.
If you’re receiving treatment for mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation to cover medical bills and other expenses. Complete a free case evaluation today.