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Radiation Therapy for Mesothelioma

Radiation therapy is a commonly used treatment for mesothelioma, one that provides benefit to the majority of the patients who use it. With this technique, high-intensity rays are beamed with precision at the location or locations of the tumors. These rays kill or slow the progression of cancer cells. Radiation has been safely used for many years and is generally tolerated better than chemotherapy.

What is Radiation Therapy?

Over the years, radiation therapy has become more sophisticated and is consequently a helpful tool against the effects of mesothelioma. It may be used alongside chemotherapy after surgery to eliminate remaining cancer cells. It may also be used as a form of palliative treatment to reduce pain in cases where surgery is not recommended. It is especially useful for patients dealing with pain, bleeding and shortness of breath.

While many people tolerate the intensity of this strategy rather well, radiation is not recommended if you have peritoneal mesothelioma. This is because the treatment would have to be administered to the abdomen, where it might damage nearby tissues and organs. It is better suited for patients with pleural mesothelioma. Radiation would be delivered to the chest.

Types of Radiation

If you undergo radiation, you will do so in one of two ways. The common form is called external beam radiation therapy. It uses light that is beamed from outside the body to a targeted spot. To receive these rays, you lie on a table in a doctor’s office or outpatient center and a large machine rotates around you. An advanced form of radiation is called intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which uses computers to adjust the shape and strength of the beam to better target the tumor, reducing the chance of harming healthy cells.

Although the dosage of radiation is high, this method is painless. However, healthy cells may be harmed in the process, causing some side effects. You might receive radiation therapy in 30-minute sessions about five times per week for a few weeks.

Alternatively, you may receive an internal form of radiation therapy called brachytherapy. With this method, a device is surgically placed within you, through which medication in the form of seeds or rods is directly administered to the affected area. These devices may be implanted either temporarily or permanently within an outpatient setting. This form of treatment is fairly new, but it has shown some positive results and harms fewer healthy cells.

Radiation Side Effects

While radiation therapy carries fewer side effects than other treatment methods, it does have some side effects. Such side effects include excessive tiredness and a dry, swollen mouth. Because of the light used in this treatment method, some patients experience peeling or darkened skin after receiving therapy, similar to sunburn. These side effects might be heightened when radiation is used with chemotherapy.

If you suffer any of these side effects, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she may have ways for you to control them.

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