Last Modified: August 22, 2011
Mesna is not a cancer treatment, but a medication, called a chemoprotectant, used to protect the bladder from a harmful side effect of certain chemotherapy agents (ifosfamide, cyclophosphamide) called hemorrhagic cystitis (bleeding in the bladder).
Mesna is given by intravenous (IV) infusion or by mouth, in a pill form. It can be given before, after, and/or at the same time as the chemotherapy. The actual dose is dependent on the patient's body size and the dose of chemotherapy he or she is receiving.
In some cases, the nursing staff will use a test strip to check the urine periodically for microscopic blood (not visible to the eye) to be sure that cystitis is not developing. You should report any burning or urgency with urination to your doctor or nurse. You should also let your doctor or nurse know if you are taking any blood-thinning medications (coumadin, aspirin, Plavix), as these put you at a higher risk of bleeding. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids while taking mesna.
Most side effects experienced while taking mesna are actually caused by the chemotherapy medication it is given with. However, nausea has been reported as a potential side effect.
Some patients reported a bad taste or nausea when taking mesna in a pill form. There are things you can do to help nausea. There are many effective drugs that will prevent, eliminate, or lessen the severity of nausea if you need them. In addition, dietary adjustments may help. Try to eat something light before taking the medication. In addition, dietary changes may help. Avoid things that may worsen the symptoms, such as heavy or greasy/fatty, spicy or acidic foods (lemons, tomatoes, oranges). Try antacids, (e.g. milk of magnesia, calcium tablets such as Tums), saltines, or ginger ale to lessen symptoms. Read the Nausea & Vomiting Tip Sheet for more suggestions.