Mesothelioma is a relatively rare, yet fairly aggressive form of asbestos cancer that affects the mesothelium, a thin lining in the body that surrounds and protects many of the internal organs. It is most often linked to heavy and continued exposure to asbestos; however, individuals with limited and/or virtually no contact have also developed this disease. Approximately 80 percent of cases begin in the lining surrounding the lungs, known as the pleura, and are therefore known as pleural mesothelioma, but this cancer can also originate in the lining of the abdomen or the heart. Due to the very nature of this disease, treatment can be difficult since an extremely large amount of small masses invade an entire area and can metastasize to nearby organs as well as other parts of the body.
Actual treatment of mesothelioma is dependant on a number of factors, including both the location and stage of the cancer as well as the individual’s age and overall health. When chemotherapy, specifically carboplatin chemotherapy, is recommended, it is typically administered as an outpatient treatment during which the patient intravenously receives the drug every 28 days. Often times, this therapy is used in conjunction with other treatments, such as surgical procedures or additional chemotherapeutic drugs, normally gemcitabine, an anti-metabolite drug that inhibits the growth of cancer cells. In such cases, the individual may need to be treated on an inpatient basis at the administering hospital over the course of two or more days.
As with most chemotherapeutic drugs, carboplatin is used to kill cancer in the body by binding to the DNA of any rapidly dividing cell, a key characteristic of those cells related to cancer. Once bound, the cells cease normal function and eventually die, thus slowing the spread of malignant mesothelioma throughout the body. In turn, any other cells that divide at a rapid rate, such as those associated with a portion of the immune system, also become a target, making the patient more susceptible to infection and disease.
Over the years, carboplatin has grown in popularity as the severity of its side effects are much less than that of its parent compound, cisplatin, the preferred drug used, often in combination with pemetrexed, to treat a diagnosis of mesothelioma. Though carboplatin is considered more stable than cisplatin, as it is retained in the bloodstream for a longer period of time, making its effects longer lasting, it is generally less effective and a higher dose is required to see comparable results.
Like any other course of chemotherapy, patients undergoing carboplatin treatment have a tendency to still experience certain side effects, most of which are fairly manageable or dissipate soon after therapy is complete. Because no two people are alike, neither are their reactions to treatment. Some will experience a minimal amount of discomfort, while others may encounter a great deal more. Most common is that of nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue. Often times, with the help of a physician, dietician or nurse, people can offset these types of side effects through prescribed medications as well as modified diets and continued rest. There are a number of other side effects that are considered less common, but still may accompany carboplatin treatment. Patients have been known to suffer numbness in the hands and feet, a change in taste, soreness of mouth, diarrhea, and hair loss. It’s always best, as with anything related to a person’s health, to keep a doctor informed of a patient’s progress and wellbeing.
At this time, the prognosis for a mesothelioma diagnosis is poor as there is no proven cure. And chemotherapy is just one of the tools currently used to help fight this rare form of cancer by restricting or slowing its development and providing some relief of symptoms related to the disease. Nevertheless, researchers continue to discover new and innovative methods of treatment that prove to be both beneficial and successful.