Radiation Therapy

Radiation has been used to kill cancer cells since the early 1900s. For some individuals with malignant pleural mesothelioma, radiation therapy can help extend their survival, especially when combined with chemotherapy and surgery. It can also help improve symptoms of pain and shortness of breath and prevent cancer spread.

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Who Can Benefit from Radiation Therapy

The decision to pursue radiation therapy for the treatment of mesothelioma is a complex one. An informed decision requires input from the entire oncology team, composed of medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists. Generally, deciding when and how to pursue radiation therapy depends on if and when the patient has received surgical treatment and if the disease is recurrent. A patient’s oncology team can help them weigh the risks and benefits of radiation therapy related to their unique circumstances.

A Promising Treatment for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Data on the effectiveness of radiation therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma are sparse, given the disease’s rare nature and variability in its presentation. However, preliminary studies have shown favorable rates of disappearance of lymph node metastases after surgical treatment with extrapleural pneumonectomy (to remove the primary tumor) and radiation therapy using intensity-modulated techniques. This particular kind of radiation therapy can more safely and extensively treat mesothelioma.

What It’s Like to Receive Radiation Therapy

Before the therapy is delivered, a radiation oncologist performs imaging studies to determine tumor shape, size, and location. These studies aid in safe and effective radiation therapy.

The radiation treatment itself is painless and lasts for about fifteen to thirty minutes. During that time, a radiation oncologist targets the cancerous cells while avoiding healthy tissue. Radiation therapy usually consists of one or more treatments weekly for several weeks.

Side Effects and Possible Complications of Radiation Therapy

Common side effects of radiation therapy include:

  • Fatigue
  • Skin irritation at the radiation site

Radiation therapy may also cause temporary worsening of pleural mesothelioma symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Trouble swallowing

Rare but possible complications of radiation therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Inflammation of the linings of the heart or lungs
  • Heart muscle damage
  • Fluid buildup around the lungs
  • Lung scarring
  • Lung collapse

Radiation Therapy