Fasting Before Chemotherapy

Patient Undergoing Chemotherapy

After survivors Jo Denham and Jan Egerton found out about their mesothelioma diagnosis,they wasted no time before turning to the Internet for more information about the disease.

Like many other newly diagnosed patients, Jo and Jan wanted to learn as much as possible about their mesothelioma prognosis, treatment options and the top mesothelioma doctors. But sometimes curious patients come across mesothelioma articleswithout any knowledge of how reliable they are.

Let’s face it, anyone can create a webpage and start posting information.With the wealth of information that exists on the Internet, how can you be sure a source is trustworthy?

Here are some questions you should ask while researching:

  • Does this information come from a source I know I can trust, like a cancer center or a peer-reviewed medical journal?

  • If not, who is providing the information? Are they mesothelioma experts?

  • Are the article’s claims backed by several clinical trials with lots of participants?

  • Are many doctors discussing this topic, or only a few? And what do the leading mesothelioma experts have to say about it?

Here’s one example of why it’s so important to ask these questions.

Recently, an old topic has resurfaced about the potential benefits of fasting before cancer treatment. Some studies claim that fasting may improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy. While it is easy to get excited over new treatment discoveries, it is important to know all the facts. It may be too soon to hail this method as a breakthrough.

Valter Longo examines cancer cell results

Here are a couple articles discussing Dr. Valter Longo and his research about the effects of fasting on chemotherapy:

Currently a professor at the University of Southern California, Longo has credentials from accredited universities, has received several honors and has contributed to more than 60 publications in his field.

In Fasting Weakens Cancer in Mice, he describes some amazing discoveries about how cancer cells can destroy themselveswhen starved of nutrientsafter fasting.Longo’s animal studies revealed that for the three cancers tested, fasting combined with chemotherapy improved survival and slowed the progression of tumor growth.

Although this discovery seems promising, here are some points to think about:

  • Mice are great for lab studies, but the effects of fasting on human chemotherapy patients are still unknown.

  • Fasting may not be safe for all patients, especially those suffering from dramatic weight loss and diabetes.

  • Of the several cancers studied, lung cancer and mesothelioma were not mentioned.

  • Only a clinical trial spanning several years can demonstrate the benefits of fastingfor humans.

The article also mentions a self-reported study involving 10 cancer patients who fasted before chemotherapy. Although the patients reported fewer side effects to chemotherapy, it will take additional clinical trials with a greater number of participants to confirm these results.

Early studies on this chemotherapy approach made substantial contributions to an area lackingextensive research. In the upcoming years, the strategy will be further discussed and explored by the medical community. Only then can researchers be sure that the benefits of fasting outweigh its risks.

The bottom line is that fasting isn’t meant for everyone, and your treatment strategy should be between you and your mesothelioma doctor. Always consult your doctor before changing your eating habits or daily routines.

Message boards and Facebook walls are great places to discuss cancer news articles. Maybe someone will join the conversation with some good advice. You can even learn some great questions to ask your doctor during your next appointment. But getting carried away with early hype may lead to misinformation. Use prudence and some amount of skepticism when you are not familiar with a source of information.

Have you considered fasting before chemotherapy? What online resources do you trust? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.


Ben Leer is an outreach coordinator with The Mesothelioma Center. He works toward increasing education and awareness of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Part of Ben’s job is to reach out and engage with patients, caregivers and family members on our online communities.

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