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Chemotherapy for mesothelioma

We cover what chemotherapy is, how it’s used as a treatment for mesothelioma and potential side-effects.

Chemotherapy means using powerful medications to destroy cancer cells. If you have chemotherapy, the medications go straight into your blood stream to attack the cancer cells wherever they are. There’s evidence that the most effective chemotherapy drug is pemetrexed, also called Alimta, in combination with a second drug, either cisplatin or carboplatin. You can read more about chemotherapy for mesothelioma on the Cancer Research UK website.

However, chemotherapy also affects normal cells. This means short-term side effects are common. These might include tiredness, feeling sick (nausea), anaemia (when your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells) and hair thinning. You might also have an increased risk of infection. Your specialist doctor will try to reduce these side effects as much as possible. 

You may have chemotherapy medications through a drip (a device that slowly puts fluid into your vein), or as injections or tablets. You usually have two courses or cycles of chemotherapy, and then have another CT scan to see how you’re responding to the treatment. If the chemotherapy is working, you might be given a course every three weeks, with four to six courses in total.

Other treatments for mesothelioma:

Download our mesothelioma information (PDF, 166KB)

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Last medically reviewed: November 2020. Due for review: November 2023

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.