Radiation therapy has an extensive history as a treatment for mesothelioma cancer. Over the years, the therapy has evolved and the delivery system is much more exact, resulting in improved outcomes. Individuals suffering from mesothelioma are often treated with a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may also be used to remove the cancerous tissue after a person has undergone surgery. In some cases, radiation therapy is used to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with mesothelioma to make the person more comfortable.
External Beam Radiation
There are two types of radiation therapy used for the treatment of mesothelioma. External beam radiation is probably the most well-known and commonly used type. A machine is used to deliver a beam of radiation to the exact location in the body that is infected with cancer. The machine does not make physical contact with the patient. This treatment method is painless and typically done in an outpatient facility.
The radiation used to kill off cancer cells is very powerful. As a result, healthy cells are frequently killed off during the course of the treatment, which causes some unpleasant side effects. The length of the treatment process will vary depending on the type and location of a person’s cancer. Typically, individuals will undergo five treatments a week for anywhere from one to several weeks. The radiation procedure lasts about 30 minutes each session.
Brachytherapy is the second method of radiation therapy used to treat mesothelioma. This type of therapy involves radiation being shot directly into the cancerous tumor. This is a relatively new procedure, but shows promise in treating patients with mesothelioma. This type of radiation therapy is more exact, so fewer healthy cells are destroyed during the treatment process.
Brachytherapy involves the placement of radioactive rods or seeds near the tumor site. A general anesthesia is used, along with catheters, to implant the seeds or rods. The implants can be left in for a short period or permanently. The rods stop emitting radiation after anywhere between three and twelve months. This type of therapy is usually given on an outpatient basis as well.
Both methods of radiation therapy used for mesothelioma treatment have several side effects. These can include severe fatigue, skin issues like redness or drying, and digestive problems. Nevertheless, radiation therapy causes fewer side effects than chemotherapy and remains a valid treatment option.