Radiation Therapy as Mesothelioma Treatment

Share This:

Mesothelioma is a fast growing and rare form of asbestos cancer that requires aggressive treatment. This usually involves some form of radiation therapy.

Mesothelioma radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy radiation to directly target tumors and cancer cells. By specifically targeting tumors, radiation can kill cancer cells and therefore reduce the size of the tumor. Radiation therapy may also be referred to as radiotherapy, brachytherapy, implant radiation or interstitial radiation, depending on the type of radiation treatment. Some of the sources of radiation used in mesothelioma treatment (as well as the treatment of many other cancers) are linear accelerator which generate x-rays, radioactive sources which generate gamma-rays and proton accelerators. Radiation therapy is often given from many different angles to target different sides of the tumor. This can prove more effective in targeting the tumor(s) and therefore have a more significant impact on the tumor.

In most cases, radiation therapy is used along with other treatment methods to achieve the best possible results in patients with a mesothelioma diagnosis. This usually includes surgery and chemotherapy. A combination of treatment methods is often needed because although mesothelioma radiation therapy is very effective, it does not kill all the cancer cells within the body alone. It is important to keep in mind during treatment that each patient’s case is different. Therefore an individualized treatment plan is necessary and made according to your specific needs. Your treating physician will determine the type as well as amount of radiation needed in your situation. There are complex formulas used to help in this decision process that involve tumor size, location and the type or types of tumors involved as well as the stage of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma Prognosis

Radiation therapy can be used as treatment in different ways. Often is it used to try to cure cancer, but sometimes cancer may be too far spread and no longer be curable. In these cases, radiation therapy can still be used as palliative care. This means that it is used to help reduce the severity of mesothelioma symptoms a patient may be experiencing. Mesothelioma patients with an advanced stage of cancer may find this beneficial in reducing cancer pain and shortness of breath. In incurable cases, radiation therapy can also be used as life-extending therapy; although the cancer cannot be cured, the radiation treatment is used for the benefit of extending life as long as possible.

Radiation is highly effective in killing cancer cells but healthy cells are also killed and damaged along with cancer cells. This is what causes the symptoms that you will experience during your radiation treatment. Healthy cells that are damaged or killed during radiation will eventually regenerate themselves. This becomes evident after your treatment with radiation therapy is completed, as the symptoms you experienced during treatment will begin to subside. Radiation therapy itself is a painless procedure, though the symptoms can often be very troubling to those experiencing them. You will need to keep your doctor informed of the severity and type of symptoms you experience during treatment. There may be some ways you can treat some of the individual symptoms to ease their severity.

Mesothelioma Symptoms InformationThere are many symptoms you may experience during your treatment for malignant mesothelioma that can at times become quite severe. Some of the most common symptoms include swelling, fatigue, skin damage and skin rashes, hair loss, infertility, difficulty swallowing and loss of appetite. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also often experienced, especially when treatment involves the abdominal area. The number and severity of symptoms that you will experience depends on the type and amount of radiation treatment used as well as the area of the body. Your doctor will talk with you about what you can most likely expect. However, remember that each individual undergoing radiation treatment experiences their symptoms differently, and they can vary quite widely from person to person.

Radiation therapy can be external or internal. External radiation is when cancer cells are targeted with treatments from outside of the body. For this type of therapy, you will need a series of appointments that may last for a few days, weeks or even months, depending on your individual treatment plan. Another form of radiation is called internal radiation therapy, which uses radioactive devices called radioisotopes. These radioactive materials can be wires, tubes, needles, catheters or beads, and they are placed inside the body as near to the tumor as possible. This type of radiation therapy is often used in the treatment of all types of mesothelioma, including pleural mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma, and peritoneal mesothelioma, as it is effective in killing fast growing cancer cells. It is also used more often for deeper tumors that may be harder to target from the outside.

IMRT is a form of external radiation therapy that is commonly used to treat mesothelioma. This treatment can target tumors better, while sparing normal tissues versus other forms of radiation therapy. Remember, radiation therapy will kill many healthy cells along with cancer cells, which in turn creates the symptoms that many patients suffer during treatment with radiation. IMRT is effective in reducing the amount of healthy tissue exposed to radiation since it can target the tumors and reduce damage to healthy tissue. You may also hear the term combination radiation therapy. This term usually refers to radiation used after surgery to target any cancer cells that may have been left behind. IMRT

Although rare, it is possible that radiation can cause secondary cancers that can occur many years to decades after radiation therapy. Radiation is in itself a cancer-causing agent, although usually the risks presented by the possibility of secondary cancer are outweighed by the benefits achieved through treatment. Sacromas and leukemia are common secondary cancers associated with radiation therapy. Leukemia or other secondary cancers may prove more difficult to cure. Your doctor should discuss all risks involved with your particular therapy prior to treatment. Be sure to ask as many questions as you need to in order to be fully informed of what to expect prior to, during, and after your radiation therapy.