Radiation for Mesothelioma
Radiation therapy is one of several treatment options for patients with mesothelioma. Radiation helps to extend a patient’s life expectancy and improve their quality of life.
Radiation therapy is only used to treat pleural mesothelioma and occasionally pericardial mesothelioma. It is not typically used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma. This is because radiation causes too many adverse side effects when administered to the abdomen.
Radiation Treatment Goals
The primary goal of radiation is to target and kill cancer cells in specific areas of the body. Radiation is usually used as an adjuvant treatment, meaning it is given after surgery. Surgery helps remove tumors. Then, radiation is used to kill as many remaining cancer cells as possible that were not removed during surgery.
Radiation can also be given during surgery. This is called intraoperative radiation therapy (IRT). The goal of IRT is to help shrink tumors by applying radiation directly to them. This prevents the radiation from inadvertently passing through the body’s healthy tissue. It also minimizes side effects.
Radiation therapy is used in palliative treatment as well. When tumors cannot be surgically removed or have spread to other areas, radiation can help shrink them. This reduces painful symptoms and improves the patient’s quality of life.
How is Radiation Administered?
Radiation is administered at a hospital by a team of radiation specialists, including a radiation oncologist and technologist.
Before administering the radiation therapy, radiation oncologists work with their patients to determine where to direct the radiation. They may use imaging tests to identify the exact location of the tumors. This ensures that the radiation therapy is aimed accurately.
After doctors have determined the location of the tumors, patients can begin their radiation sessions. Patients lie down on a table while a machine is placed over of them. These machines deliver the high-energy rays directly to the predetermined site of the tumor.
One radiation session lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. Patients typically receive one session per day from Monday to Friday for up to 10 weeks. However, doctors prescribe a radiation treatment plan depending on patient needs. This increases the success rate of the patient’s treatment plan.
External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is a form of radiation therapy that uses machines to deliver radiation from outside the body.
There are different radiation types used in ERBT, including:
- X-ray radiation
- Computed Tomography (CT) radiation
- Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
IMRT uses a 3-dimensional approach to direct radiation around the body from different angles. It involves a machine moving around the body. As the machine moves, it adjusts the radiation intensity levels. This helps deliver the right dose of radiation while also reducing the possibility of damaging the surrounding healthy tissue.
Radiation Side Effects
Radiation therapy side effects are different than side effects from chemotherapy. Radiation often causes patients to feel fatigued. It can also cause a sunburn sensation on the skin and hair loss on areas of the body that have been targeted.
If you start to experience side effects after several sessions, talk to your health care team to determine what can be done to ease the symptoms. Side effects will stop once your radiation therapy has finished.
Ongoing Radiation Research
New research is helping doctors better understand how radiation therapy can be used to fight mesothelioma. This includes learning more about the most effective ways to administer radiation and which patients can benefit most from this treatment.
With new information, doctors will be able to provide more effective treatments to help extend the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients.