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Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy

One of the most common and effective ways to manage the size and effects of cancerous tumors in the body is radiation. Mesothelioma, a malignant cancer which is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos and the inhalation of its fibers, has also been shown to be responsive to targeted radiation therapy, and radiation is often used in mesothelioma cases along with chemotherapy and surgery. The intent of an overall treatment program is to shrink, kill and remove tumors in the body, and radiation is typically used first in order to both reduce the size of a tumor and limit the severity of its symptoms for patients. On its own, radiation will not kill or cure a tumor, and without chemotherapy, surgery or other forms of treatment are best viewed as a form of palliative care. In combination with other effective treatments, however, targeted radiation therapy can be an integral part of a cancer-reduction strategy. Mesothelioma radiation therapy can come from a number of sources: X-rays, photons, neutrons, cobalt, and host of other radioactive sources. Mesothelioma specialists are constantly searching for new kinds of radiation treatments that will not only help kill the cancer cells, but also leave a patient's own, healthy cells unharmed.

The focus of mesothelioma radiation therapy is on delivering focused amounts of powerful radiation as close to the tumor site as possible, while minimizing the damage to surrounding tissue and cells. Cancer cells are very susceptible to doses of radiation, and can be quickly killed with the right application. This in turn leads to smaller tumor sizes and a decrease in the presentation of symptoms. Those who suffer from pleural mesothelioma, a cancer in the membrane of the lungs, often report that their breathing is eased after radiation therapy. Some types of mesothelioma, such as peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining of the abdomen, are not suitable for radiation therapy, as the large number of organs present in the abdomen that do not need to be irradiated often outweigh the benefits of irradiating a tumor in the same area. Patients who are undergoing mesothelioma radiation therapy can expect a number of side effects including skin redness, fatigue and nausea, which often come from the breakdown and repair of healthy cells in the body. These cells are much more resistant to radiation than the cancer cells being attacked, but the constant strain on them can cause discomfort for a patient, and medications to manage pain and other side effects are often sufficient to provide an overall benefit to any radiation therapy received.

Currently, there are three main types of radiation therapy being used to treat mesothelioma. The first is three-dimensional radiation treatment, which involves the use of detailed 3D imaging scans in order to develop a customized radiation dose. Radiation is then delivered using fixed beams, and the targeted nature of the treatment can spare the liver, heart and kidney from excessive radiation exposure. Another form of mesothelioma radiation therapy is intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). This kind of treatment requires a greater degree of planning and accuracy than 3D-CRT, and uses non-uniform radiation beam intensities across the tumor for maximum effect. This further limits the exposure of healthy tissue to radiation and can often completely spare the liver and one lung, but the kidney below the tumor may receive a dose of radiation. Brachytherapy is still undergoing testing and research and is used less often than the other two types of therapy, but has shown promising results. This treatment involves the use of radioactive rods, which are called "seeds" or "implants" that are inserted into the tumor area. Often, brachytherapy can completely spare surrounding tissue and may be done after an invasive procedure in order to capitalize on any gains made and reduce the size of the tumors further. Together, all three types of radiation therapy, in combination with chemo and surgery, aim to limit the growth of tumors so that they can be removed and ideally not return.

If you're curious about the treatment options being developed in the field of mesothelioma radiation therapy, fill out the form below for a free information package. The range of options for treating mesothelioma with radiation is steadily growing as new techniques and new, safer radioactive sources are discovered. While a definitive cure for mesothelioma has not yet been found, targeted radiation can help to not only limit the spread of this cancer, but reduce the overall severity of its symptoms.