Understanding Your Prescriptions
There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, so most treatments are designed to slow the progress of the cancer or alleviate the discomfort associated with the disease. Treatments aimed solely at increasing patient comfort are termed palliative care and are an important aspect of the medications.
One of the most important aspects of your treatment is communicating with your physician – beginning immediately after your diagnosis. It is very important that you are able to talk to your doctor and ask any questions you may have about your condition or treatment, including your prognosis, new treatments, the management of treatment side effects and proper nutrition during your treatments.
Many doctors encourage patients to bring a list with them of any questions that arise between appointments. It is imperative to your treatment that you keep all appointments with your doctor, as well as any appointments for labs or treatments. Your doctor will want to monitor your progress as well as any side effects from your medications very carefully.
You should thoroughly discuss your medical history with any doctor who is prescribing medications for you, especially if it is the first time you have seen this particular physician. You should make a list before your appointment of all your prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and supplements (both herbal and nutritional) and give it to your doctor. Many medications interact with each other and this may worsen your condition or adversely affect the effectiveness of your medications.
After discussing your condition with you, your doctor may recommend some of the following medications:
Pemetrexed is a chemotherapy drug that slows the growth and spread of cancer cells. The use of pemetrexed has been used successfully to decrease pain and extend the lifespan and prognosis of cancer patients. It is most commonly administered by injection at a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital.
Cisplatin is a platinum-containing compound that slows or stops the growth of cancer cells. It is most commonly administered intravenously by an experienced healthcare professional. Cisplatin has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of mesothelioma, especially in conjunction with pemetrexed, but the patient must be monitored carefully for side effects as overuse of this drug can be fatal.
Endostatin is an Angiogenic Inhibitor that slows the growth of cancer cells by depriving them of an adequate blood supply. Because the cancer cells rely on a large number of blood vessels to grow, researchers believe that Endostatin will be an effective treatment for mesothelioma and other fast-growing cancers.
Gemcitabine is an antimetabolite, which prevents the production of certain proteins that tumors require for growth. It is used most commonly to treat pancreatic cancer and lung cancer (including mesothelioma). Gemcitabine is administered intravenously in a doctor’s office or hospital.
Epirubicin is an antineoplastic which works by interfering with the growth of cancer cells by allowing the body to kill them. It is usually given as an injection by a healthcare provider at a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic.
Intrapleural Interferon Gamma is injected directly into the lung cavity which has shown to be effective in early stages of diffuse malignant mesothelioma. The action of this drug is not completely understood, so consult your doctor for information on the following common side effects: diarrhea, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, nausea and discomfort at the injection site.
Doxorubicin is an antineoplastic medication that slows the growth and spread of cancer cells. Doxorubicin should only be administered by qualified healthcare providers in an office, hospital or clinic.
There are additional drugs being developed and tested for the purpose of cancer treatment. Your oncologist should be a good resource for more information on these experimental medications. It is important to follow the nutrition guidelines offered by your oncologist and physician during your cancer treatment.