Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy

Mesothelioma is a lethal cancer that affects over 10,000 people worldwide each year. This disease occurs in the protective layer of cells covering the lungs, heart, or abdomen. The tumor is usually located on the pleura, a thin membrane that surrounds the lungs and internal chest wall. This membrane has different names, depending on its location in the body. Malignant mesothelioma cannot be cured. However, there are a few treatment options that help reduce symptoms and improve the patient's life.

Asbestos Exposure: The Main Risk Factor for Mesothelioma

This form of cancer is common in those who have been exposed to high levels of asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral that was once used for its increased resistance to heat and corrosion. Asbestos can be found in wall and ceiling insulation materials, brake linings, floor tiles, roofing shingles, plasters and many other products. People who have worked with materials containing asbestos are at high risk for lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment Options

After performing several tests, the doctor will confirm a diagnosis. If the tumor is detected in early stages, patients receive a better prognosis. Clinical behavior of the cancer depends on a number of factors, including the location and size of the tumor, the latency period between asbestos exposure and diagnosis, and the extent of the malignancy. In general doctors recommend surgical treatment, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Patients may also opt for experimental therapies such as gene therapy, immunotherapy, and heated intraoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy.


Reducing the size of the tumor is the key to long term survival. When used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation, surgery can be very effective. Most patients undergo a pleurectomy, a surgical procedure in which the lining of the chest is removed. Older patients have fewer treatment options than younger individuals who are diagnosed in early stages of the disease.

Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is typically used along with surgery or chemotherapy. This procedure destroys cancer cells by breaking their DNA molecules. Applying this form of treatment on mesothelioma patients is very difficult because the pleura is large and spread out. Radiation therapy can be used after surgery to kill the remaining cancerous tissue. If the cancer is detected is late stages, radiation therapy can only ease symptoms and make the patient feel more comfortable.

This form of therapy kills cancerous cells at the molecular level and stops them from multiplying. The only downside is that radiation cannot destroy malignant cells without causing damage to the patient. This procedure may result in damage to the underlying lung, heart, liver, and spinal cord. Numerous studies have proven the beneficial effects of using radiation therapy in mesothelioma. The levels of sensitivity to radiation may vary from one patient to another. Doctors often use radioactive colloids to control pleural effusions.

Types of Radiation Therapy

There are several types of radiation therapy for mesothelioma--internal, external, and systemic. The most common form of radiotherapy is external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). This medical procedure uses a machine that sends radiation to your body from multiple directions. External beam radiation therapy focuses only on specific parts of the body. If you have pleural mesothelioma, you will get radiation to your chest cavity only.

Sealed source radiation therapy or brachytherapy is an innovative procedure that gives high radiation doses at a short distance: precise, localized, and high-tech. This advanced form of treatment aims to shrink the tumor and kill cancer cells. Brachytherapy is used for treating all forms of mesothelioma, as well as skin cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, gallbladder cancer, and breast cancer. This procedure may be either temporary or permanent.

Unsealed source radiotherapy or systemic radioisotope therapy is an internal form of radiation that destroys malignant cells with minimal damage to the healthy tissue. This procedure is considered a form of targeted therapy. The treatment is given into the bloodstream or administrated orally.

Radiation therapy side effects depend on the dose of radiation and the part of the body that is treated. Most patients experience fatigue and skin irritation, short term pain, intestinal discomfort, edema, mouth and throat sores, and permanent pigmentation.

In rare cases, radiation therapy may cause infertility, brain tumors and brain metastases, and damage to the epithelial surfaces.

If you want to find out more about mesothelioma radiation therapy and other treatment options with proven results, contact us today to get a free mesothelioma information packet. We can help you find the best mesothelioma doctors and receive proper treatment.

© 2011 | Last Modification May 02, 2014 | | Disclaimer
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