Why Is Radiation Used?
Radiation often plays a role in mesothelioma treatment success. Depending on the cancer location, cell type and stage, radiation therapy may be used in different ways. Although radiation is sometimes used as a treatment solution alone, it’s often combined with surgery.
Radiation therapy for mesothelioma has several goals, including:
- Shrinking tumors before surgery, so mesothelioma is easier to remove.
- Preventing mesothelioma from spreading to new sites during surgery.
- Killing off mesothelioma cells that were left behind during surgery.
- Shrinking tumor size to alleviate painful symptoms of metastasis.
External Beam Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is the most common type of radiation therapy. As the name suggests, EBRT is administered through the skin from outside the body. EBRT is becoming increasingly more effective at targeting tumors, thanks to technological advancements.
Before beginning radiation therapy, doctors must determine precisely where to aim the radiation and how much to administer. To do this, they examine the patient closely by imaging the body. Mesothelioma tumors are often irregularly shaped and form in separate areas, so targeting the cancer can be complicated.
To fully target a tumor, doctors now use a technique called Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). The IMRT method alters the strength, pattern and shape of radiation beams to apply radiation more directly and protect the surrounding tissue. This technique allows doctors to conform the radiation beam to the precise shape of the tumor and fine-tune the radiation doses.
New Radiation Techniques Improve Patient Outcomes
Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy is more accurate and effective than older radiation techniques, and it’s minimally damaging to healthy tissues.
Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) is a radiation therapy approach used to support surgery—an approach called adjuvant therapy. IORT is administered inside the body while the tumor site is exposed during surgery. By applying radiation therapy directly to the open mesothelioma site, doctors can increase surgical success by preventing mesothelioma cells from spreading.
The IORT approach also prevents damage to healthy tissues since radiation does not pass through the skin from the outside.
Only used on early-stage mesothelioma patients, IORT can further increase life expectancy from surgery-based treatment plans. Depending on your exact diagnosis, doctors may recommend the IORT approach with pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma surgeries.
Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy
Surgery for mesothelioma after radiation therapy (SMART) is only used on patients with pleural mesothelioma who will undergo surgery. Administering radiation therapy before an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EEP) surgery has significant benefits. With the SMART approach, doctors deliver large doses of radiation to the tumor site to kill tumor cells aggressively.
Preventing Recurrence With Radiation Therapy
Doctors have found that SMART (surgery for mesothelioma after radiation therapy) helps shrink tumors and kills outlying mesothelioma cells, which prevents them from forming new tumors.
Targeting a large area of mesothelioma cells with radiation can prevent mesothelioma from spreading to distant sites during surgery. By using the SMART approach, doctors can limit mesothelioma recurrence and increase survival. Damaging healthy tissue is less of a concern during this procedure because the entire lung will be removed in the following surgery.