Radiation therapy is one of three standard treatments used in mesothelioma cancer patients and is often used in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy. None of these mesothelioma treatments—either alone or in combination—can cure the deadly disease, though doctors are able to use various therapies to help control the cancer and even prolong a patient’s life.
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy (also referred to as irradiation, radiotherapy or x-ray therapy) involves the use of energy waves or particles to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. In some cases, radiation therapy is used where no cancer cells are present to prevent future growth or as a palliative to alleviate the symptoms associated with cancer that has spread.
Types of Radiation Therapy for Mesothelioma
There are several types of radiation—external, internal, and systemic—and the type and dose used depend on various factors including the location and extent of the cancer.
External radiation as the name suggests, is delivered by a beam from a machine outside the body to a targeted location of cells or tumors inside the body. It is used in the treatment of most cancers, particularly those such as mesothelioma cancer that are difficult to remove or have a high rate of recurrence.
The radiation may be administered prior to surgery to shrink the tumor (this is called neoadjuvant therapy) or it can be administered during surgery. In the latter case, a final, high-dose of radiation is aimed directly at the site of the tumor once all or most of it has been removed. External radiation may also be given after surgery to help reduce the rate of recurrence; this is considered a type of adjuvant therapy.
A typical course of mesothelioma radiation treatment lasts three to five weeks, with radiation administered about five days a week.
Internal radiation, or brachytherapy, is less commonly used for mesothelioma treatment. It involves the placement of radioactive material—usually contained in a small tube, capsule or seed—into the body near the site of the mesothelioma cancer (in the chest or the abdomen).
In systemic radiation, a radioactive substance is taken orally or via injection and circulated throughout the body.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is primarily used to treat brain tumors, although it may also be used to treat tumors in the body. It is extremely precise, relying on a focused, high-dose beam of radiation to eliminate any remaining tumor or cancer cells after surgery but is itself a non-invasive procedure. Mesothelioma cancer patients interested in stereotactic radiosurgery or other type of radiation therapy should consult with a physician (or team of physicians) to determine the best, most effective course of mesothelioma treatment.
Financial Help for Mesothelioma Treatment
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, you may be entitled to compensation to help cover your mesothelioma treatment costs. Mesothelioma is a cancer largely caused by asbestos exposure and asbestos manufacturers may be held legally responsible for damages.