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.
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.
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.