Last Modified: January 7, 2016
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).
How to Take Mesna
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.
If you are in the hospital, the nursing staff may 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.
Possible Side Effects of Mesna
Most side effects experienced while taking mesna are actually caused by the chemotherapy medication it is given with. Intravenous (IV) mesna contains a small amount of alcohol, which may cause patients to experience drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness and blurred vision, which can impair your ability to drive.
Some patients reported a bad taste or nausea when taking mesna in a pill form. Talk to your doctor or nurse so they can prescribe medications to help you manage nausea and vomiting. 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.
Some patients may experience an allergic reaction to this medication. This can range from a mild reaction to anaphylaxis. Symptoms of a reaction include itching, flushing, burning, swelling of the face, or difficulty breathing. A serious skin reaction that starts as a rash and progresses to painful blisters, can happen in rare cases. Report any unusual symptoms to your healthcare provider.
Exposure of an unborn child to this medication could cause birth defects, so you should not become pregnant or father a child while on this medication. Effective birth control is necessary during treatment. Even if your menstrual cycle stops or you believe you are not producing sperm, you could still be fertile and conceive. You should consult with your healthcare team before breastfeeding while receiving this medication.