Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, treats mesothelioma using penetrating high-energy rays that damage or kill cancer cells. Like surgery, radiation is a localized treatment designed to eliminate cancer in a defined area. In treating mesothelioma, radiation may be used aggressively in an effort to cure the cancer or palliatively to control symptoms.

When radiation is used aggressively, it is often preceded by tumor removal surgery. Following the surgery, intense radiation treatments are used to hopefully kill any remaining cancer cells. Sometimes, aggressive mesothelioma treatments will combine radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.

When used palliatively, radiation is used to relieve mesothelioma symptoms rather than to eradicate the cancer completely. Palliative radiation is usually appropriate where mesothelioma is so advanced that aggressive radiation would be impractical. In these cases, palliative radiation can help stop the cancer from spreading. In addition, it can reduce mesothelioma symptoms such as pain and shortness of breath.   

Mesothelioma Radiation Types

There are two radiation types. External radiation uses a machine to direct radiation at cancer cells from outside the body and internal radiation places a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, or catheters directly inside or near the cancer. How radiation treatment is given to a mesothelioma patient depends on the mesothelioma stage and type.

New Radiation Technique for Pleural Mesothelioma

With pleural mesothelioma, radiation therapy can now be delivered more precisely with a technique called intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).This technique allows radiation to be directed straight to the cancer and reduces the amount of radiation delivered to normal tissue. With less radiation delivered to normal tissue, patients are less likely to suffer injuries to healthy body parts.

Mesothelioma Radiation Side Effects

A problem with radiation therapy for all malignant mesothelioma is that the cancer is usually widespread, requiring a large area to be radiated. As a result, high radiation doses may be necessary to eradicate the disease. These high radiation doses may cause several side effects including:

  • sunburn like changes to the skin
  • fatigue
  • damage to normal chest structures
  • lung inflammation (pneumonitis)
  • inflammation of the sack around the heart (pericarditis)
  • heart compression (cardiac tamponade)

If you have mesothelioma and need radiation or other treatment, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills. Contact us today to learn about your legal rights.

Published November 17, 2011 by