Radiation therapy can kill cancer cells and shrink tumors, generally with less side effects than chemotherapy. Radiation is usually only used on pleural mesothelioma patients. For many inoperable or late stage pleural mesothelioma patients, radiation is an effective option. Although it can be used with surgery, radiation itself is non-invasive.
Radiation therapy is a painless treatment option that can be done in sessions as short as 5 minutes. It can be used on its own, but works best in combination with other mesothelioma treatments. Doctors often use radiation with chemotherapy or surgery to improve a pleural mesothelioma patient’s prognosis.
External Beam Radiation (EBR)
This involves using a machine to direct radiation at pleural mesothelioma cancer cells. EBR is often used after surgery to help kill the remaining mesothelioma that the doctor could not remove during surgery. It is also useful for patients with inoperable mesothelioma as a non-invasive treatment. There are several ways doctors can apply EBR.
- 3D Conformal
- Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy
Some patients only need palliative care, meaning that they need their symptoms to be relieved so that they can feel better. The pressure of tumors on the lungs can be painful.
Radiation can reduce tumor size to reduce discomfort for patients. Radiation is noninvasive and can be used on patients with advanced mesothelioma even if they are not eligible for surgery.
Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT)
Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) gives doctors the opportunity to apply radiation directly to pleural mesothelioma tumors in the chest. Since this takes place during surgery, the radiation does not have to go through healthy tissue to reach the cancer. This is beneficial to patients because IORT usually has fewer side effects and is more effective than traditional radiation therapy. Doctors may use IORT during a Pleurectomy with Decortication surgery. IORT improves survival rates to a higher degree than P/D alone. The therapy also results in less side effects than traditional radiation. Minimizing side effects improves overall quality of life, which often has a positive impact on a patient’s prognosis.
Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy (SMART)
Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy: SMART is a relatively new concept. Radiation is used before surgery to help give the doctors a head-start on eradicating the cancer. Surgery is more effective when preceded by IMRT because it minimizes the number of tumors the surgeon has to remove. The survival rates for SMART have shown more promise than traditional procedures involving radiation after surgery. A 2014 study resulted in an 84% survival rate after three years. Only a few institutions use this treatment, and patients may need to join a clinical trial to be treated with SMART.
Radiation treatments are painless, short, and known for having fewer side effects than chemotherapy. However, side effects for radiation do exist. Radiation has some general side effects but other issues may occur that are specific to the area where the radiation is aimed.
- Skin Irritation
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty swallowing
- Breast/nipple soreness
- Shoulder Stiffness
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