Alimta is the first and only chemotherapy drug to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). When surgery is not an option, Alimta is considered to be one of the most important drugs in the fight against the debilitating symptoms of the disease.
Used in tandem with the drug cisplatin, in clinical trials Alimta was shown to extend the life of mesothelioma patients by a number of months and also provide them a better quality of life by addressing the symptoms of the disease, such as pain and shortness of breath.
Like all chemotherapy drugs, Alimta interferes with the process which allows cancer cells to spread and multiply. However, not everyone is a candidate for mesothelioma treatment with this drug. As is true with most treatments for all types of cancer, whether the drug is right for you will depend on a variety of factors, including the stage of the disease and your overall general health.
Before You Take Alimta
If your doctor determines you are a candidate for treatment with Alimta, you will need to do several things before the treatment starts in order to ensure a more positive experience with the drug.
For about a week before you start treatment, your doctor will ask you to take folic acid supplements and you will be given a shot of vitamin B12. In order to avoid skin rashes and other similar side effects of the drug, you will also be given a prescription for an oral steroid and instructed to take it on the day before, the day of, and the day after your treatment. You may be asked to stop taking any over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Treatment with Alimta
Treatment of Alimta is on a 21-day cycle. On Day 1, you will be given a dose of the drug, administered via IV infusion. This takes about 10-15 minutes. Because most medical professionals recommend the use of a platinum agent– like cisplatin– with Alimta, you will also be infused with that medication about 30 minutes after the Alimta. The platinum agent takes much longer to administer, often about 2 hours.
After Day 1, you will be given no more chemotherapy for another 21 days. On Day 22, the process will be repeated.
Your oncologist will determine how many treatments are necessary and if the Alimta is helping you. There is no set number of treatments and the dosage may also be altered if needed.
Side Effects of Alimta
Treatment with chemotherapy drugs can be a very unpleasant experience. However, the drugs you will take before, during, and after treatment (folic acid, steroids, Vitamin B12) should serve to lessen some of the side effects of the Alimta and the accompanying platinum agent.
Expect to experience all or some of the side effects listed below. Some will be mild to moderate while others may be severe, but thanks to new drugs and other therapies, chemo side effects have indeed become more manageable.
- Blood and bone marrow problems
- Skin rash
- Sores in the mouth
Any and all side effects should be reported to your doctor or medical team to determine if further action must be taken to alleviate the problems. Some side effects will disappear a day or two (or even hours) after the treatment while others may linger a bit longer. In order to avoid serious consequences, do not hesitate to ask your doctor if what you’re feeling is or is not “normal.”
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