42 Years - A Professional Law Corporation - Helping Asbestos Victims Since 1974

mesothelioma chemotherapy

Mesothelioma Patients can Learn to Cope with ‘Chemo Brain’

comtemplative manIf you’ve been newly diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you already know that you’ll have to make some major adjustments. While there is no cure for this disease, there are different treatments that can make life as functional and comfortable as possible. Chemotherapy is one of the regimens most commonly used to help patients.

However, this treatment can cause side effects. Among them? Chemo brain.

Fog and forgetfulness while fighting disease

According to the National Cancer Institute, it’s not uncommon for patients who are fighting malignant diseases to experience confusion, depression or forgetfulness – all of which can be possible side effects of chemotherapy.

Medical experts have a hard time agreeing on how common chemo brain is among patients taking these medications. Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) point out that estimates range from 25 to 82 percent.

But one thing is certain: Chemo brain is real.

In order to understand why cancer patients have these neurological symptoms, UCLA researchers conducted an experiment in which they imaged the brains of three groups of women: breast cancer patients who had chemotherapy, those treated with surgery and healthy women who never had breast cancer or chemotherapy.

The cortical images taken during this experiment showed that blood flow and metabolism were different in the brains of patients who had chemotherapy.

Later, when the test subjects were taking memory tests, brain scans showed that the chemotherapy patients’ brains had to work harder, compared to those of the healthy women.

There are ways to deal with chemo brain

At Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we’re committed to helping all of our clients who have mesothelioma cope with the changes in their lives as best as we can.

From the Mayo Clinic, we’ve learned about several ways that people with mesothelioma can deal with chemo brain:

  • If you have trouble concentrating, try eliminating noise and other distractions from your environment.
  • Before taking on a complex task, try to plan ahead, remember to eat right and get plenty of sleep – all these things will boost your focus.
  • Use tools, such as daily planners or calendars, to stay organized.
  • If you’re tackling a long and labor-intensive task, take plenty of breaks to let your mind rest
  • Keep your brain sharp with the help of crossword puzzles and other games.
  • Remember to exercise. Physical activity can help alleviate fatigue, stress and depression.

Mesothelioma Treatment Side Effects: Part 3

blood systemAfter addressing the gastrointestinal side effects of mesothelioma treatments in the second part of this series, we thought we’d continue by covering the ways that chemotherapy can affect your blood and immune health.

Keep in mind that at Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we believe that mesothelioma patients deserve to know their medical and legal options. That means using online education, seeking patient advocacy and, above all, asking your doctor or lawyer for their expert opinions.

Talk to your physician if you have any of these blood-related side effects of treatments for mesothelioma:

Anemia. Some chemo regimens can lower your red blood cell count, leaving you weak or fatigued. Doctors may give you medicines to reverse this. They will almost certainly encourage you to eat foods with more protein (eggs, peanut butter, fish, red meat) and iron (spinach, collards, red meat, dried beans). If you have anemia, get lots of sleep, take plenty of naps and try short, slow walks every day.

Bleeding. Chemo can make it harder for your blood to clot and wounds to heal. This means that the number-one strategy for bleeding problems is to protect your skin and avoid nicks and cuts. Use an electric shaver, not a razor. Wear shoes as much as possible. Blow your nose gently. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Avoid knives, dental floss, toothpicks and sharp objects. Use pads, not tampons. Do not pick at scabs or whiteheads. If you notice bruises, bleeding that won’t stop, or red urine or stool, call a doctor immediately.

Infections. Chemotherapy often delivers a heavy blow to the immune system by drastically reducing white blood cell counts. This makes it very easy to get infections. While you are in the hospital, you will have access to sterile spaces and surfaces, but at home you’ll have to be more careful. A quick and easy method for reducing your risk is washing your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer regularly. Again, avoid razors and scissors. Don’t squeeze pimples or mess with scabs. If you are catheterized, keep the area as clean as you can. Brush gently.

Finally, avoid germs – that means steering clear of sick people, raw meat or eggs, litter boxes, pet feces, unwashed produce and people who have recently been vaccinated. If you develop a fever (100.5 deg F or higher), chills, sores, rashes, a cough, swelling or unusual joint stiffness, talk to your doctor or nurse immediately.

Related posts:

Mesothelioma Treatment Side Effects: Part 2

Mesothelioma Treatment Side Effects: Part 1

Mesothelioma Treatment by Stage

Mesothelioma Treatment Side Effects: Part 2

GI side effectsIn Mesothelioma Treatment Side Effects: Part 1, we discussed some of the most common side effects of treatments for mesothelioma – namely, fatigue, nausea, hair loss and skin damage. In this Part 2, we’ll continue by addressing the gastrointestinal side effects that come from chemotherapy, as well as ways to deal with them.

Chemotherapy is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is one of the most effective mesothelioma treatments, especially when delivered alongside surgery and radiation therapy. On the other, chemotherapy is notorious for its unpleasant GI side effects.

Still, from our decades of experience helping mesothelioma patients at Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we’ve found that it is better to know what’s coming so you can be prepared for it.

Here, then, are the GI side effects of chemotherapy for mesothelioma:

  • Loss of appetite. Chemotherapy often delivers a one-two punch to your appetite, by knocking you out of commission with nausea and then preventing you from wanting many meals. Occasionally, chemo may also temporarily play havoc with your sense of taste. To get around low appetite, try eating small meals every couple of hours. Seeing a dietitian is usually helpful, since they can help you optimize every bite you take. Try eating with family or friends. Typically, creamy or hearty soups, thick shakes, protein-heavy meats, cheeses, peanut butter and sweets go down easiest.
  • Digestive difficulties. Some chemo regimens also cause diarrhea or constipation. If you find yourself with loose or watery bowels, your diet may need to shift. Ease off the proteins and eat more easily digested stuff. Applesauce, white rice, toast and bananas are excellent. Drink tea or broth, too. Most importantly, drink as much water as you can, since diarrhea can quickly dehydrate you. This rule holds true for constipation, too. If you have not had a bowel movement in two or more days, eat high-fiber foods, bran, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and drink plenty of fluids. A little physical activity can also help in both cases.
  • Oral/throat problems. After chemo, you might find that your mouth, lips or throat become dry or painful. For chapped lips, use lip balm and sip on water. To keep your mouth and throat moist, drink plenty of fluids. Try sucking on ice chips. If your mouth or throat hurts, eat unspiced or fairly bland foods. Watch out for citrus, which can really sting. Do not smoke or drink alcohol. Let hot foods cool, and warm up cold dishes, to prevent excess mouth pain. Take good care of your mouth by brushing regularly and rinsing with salt water. If you have trouble swallowing or notice white spots or sores in or around your mouth, talk to your doctor about it.

Related articles:

Mesothelioma Treatment Side Effects: Part 1

Current Mesothelioma Treatment Research and Studies

Mesothelioma Treatment Options and Clinical Trials

Get a Free Case Evaluation