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Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be taken in the form of a pill, or it can be injected into the vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, circulates throughout the body, and kills cancer cells. Because the drugs circulate throughout the body, they can kill normal cells together with the cancer cells, leading to side effects. Chemotherapy is often used in combination with other treatments, especially surgery.
In people with mesothelioma, chemotherapeutic drugs may be put directly into the cavity between the two layers of the mesothelial lining of the lung (intrapleural chemotherapy). As the drugs are localized to the pleural cavity, systemic side effects can be reduced.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Most of the normal cells recover from the injury caused by radiation; however, damage to some of the healthy cells causes the side effects of radiation therapy (nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, and skin irritation).
Radiation can be given from outside the body using a machine (external radiation therapy), or it can be given with the help of materials producing radiation that are implanted inside the body (internal radiation therapy).
To relieve symptoms and provide pain relief, your fluid from the pleural cavity may be drained by inserting a needle into the chest and applying gentle suction. Drugs may be given through a tube in the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating.
Winston W Tan, MD
Shehnaz Shaikh, MD