Although radiation therapy is one of the oldest forms of mesothelioma treatments, it has changed a lot in recent years as science and technology progress. Advanced technology allows patients to undergo radiation treatment that targets certain areas in order to achieve more optimal results.
There are currently a few types of radiation treatments for mesothelioma patients. Most treatments are combined with chemotherapy and in some instances, with surgery.
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Brachytherapy is a type of radiotherapy in which the radiation is placed directly next to or inside the area of the body that requires treatment. Brachytherapy is also known as internal radiotherapy or sealed source radiotherapy because of its positioning.
Once the radiation source, typically small radioactive seeds, are placed in or near the infected area, radiation is delivered, killing cancerous cells while preserving areas that are healthy. Sometimes the radioactive seeds remain in the body indefinitely, while at other times they are removed shortly after treatment.
Once the treatment has been completed, most patients should be able to return home without any need for inpatient services. Symptoms of mesothelioma usually start to lessen after treatment. Side effects can include extreme tiredness, dry mouth, inflammation of the mouth, dry and burning skin, and rashes.
Patients are advised to limit contact with small children and pregnant women as they may be negatively exposed to the radiation.
External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)
EBRT is more common than brachytherapy and used more often. EBRT consists of administering x-rays from outside of the body in order to detect and eliminate cancerous cells.
Once the radiation machine is set up, it maneuvers over certain parts of the body, searching for cancerous cells without having to touch the patient at all. Radiation dosages are extremely high, yet the patient typically feels no pain at all. Treatment is administered five days a week for a few minutes each session.
With progressing information, new techniques and technologies have been established that make EBRT more successful. For example, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a computerized radiation machine that forms radiation shapes that fit neatly around the patient’s tumors. As a result, healthy cells are more likely to go undamaged while targeting the cancerous cells.
As with brachytherapy, side effects from EBRT range from lethargy, fatigue, skin rashes, dry skin, and skin burns. Patients who are administered abdominal radiation may experience stomach cramps, nausea, and loss of appetite. Lung cancer patients may experience shortness of breath, wheezing, and difficulties in breathing. Both forms of radiation may cause hair loss.
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