The use of radiation therapy on patients with malignant mesothelioma has shown to be quite effective. Radiation is usually used in combination with other types of treatments.
Radiation Therapy for all Stages of Mesothelioma Cancer
No matter what stage a patient’s mesothelioma cancer is at, radiation therapy can be used to extend their life expectancy. Not only can the radiation be used to remove any cancerous cells that weren’t removed during surgery, doctors will frequently use radiation prior to the surgery in order to decrease the size of existing tumors which makes them easier to remove when they do perform the surgery.
Patients who have entered the late stages of the cancer find that radiation therapy is a good way to reduce their pain.
Benefits of Radiation Treatment
- Radiation therapy effectively improves life expectancy.
- Radiation techniques have been honed so mesothelioma specialists can target a specific tumor during the treatment, significantly reducing the damage done to the healthy tissue.
- Patients are surprised by how much less pain they feel after radiation is used to decrease the size of current tumors.
The Basics of Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy
The actual treatment really doesn’t take very long, patients are generally in and out of the treatment room in less than a ½ hour. The treatment is usually scheduled to take place 5 days a week, and some patients need 2 treatments a day. In most cases, the treatment needs to be done anywhere from 3-10 weeks. X-rays are used to gauge the success of the radiation treatment.
Prior to a radiation session, a radiation oncologist sits down with the patient and creates a map of the region where malignant cells are present. When patents go in for a mesothelioma radiation appointment they will be exposed to high energy beams, usually x-rays or gamma rays, which are directed to shrink a specific tumor and eradicate any mesothelioma cells that might remain following surgery. The radiation therapy session generally takes less than 30 minutes. Following the mesothelioma radiation session it’s not unusual for the patient to feel tired or to be nauseous.
Mesothelioma radiation treatment has been very successful. Duke University conducted a study in 2009 that indicates the combination of both radiation and chemotherapy therapy in patients who had stage 1,2, or 3 mesothelioma cancer increased the odds of them entering remission by 50%! Patients who agreed to combine extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgery with mesothelioma radiation therapy averaged a life expectancy of 5 years longer than patients who didn’t.
Doctors Who Excel at Treating Mesothelioma Treatment
- Dr. David Sugarbaker who specializes in pleural mesothelioma
- Dr. Paul Sugarbaker who specializes in Peritoneal Mesothelioma
- Dr. Robert B. Cameron who specializes in Pleural Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma Radiation Treatment Options
The type, stage, and location of the mesothelioma cancer has a huge impact on the type of treatment that will generate the best results. Additional factors the specialist will consider when determining which mesothelioma radiation treatment will be the best include:
- The overall health of the patient
- Whether the cancer has metastasized
- The size and number of tumors
The types of mesothelioma radiation used are:
- External Beam Radiation
- Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy-
- X-ray Radiation
- CT Scan Radiation
- 3D Conformal Radiation
- Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy
- Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT)
One of the newest types of radiation treatment being used on mesothelioma patient is Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy (SMART). It’s a multimodal treatment at combines extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT).
A large dose of radiation is given to the patient prior to their surgery. Although still quite new SMART looks promising. One study indicates that 84% of the patients who submitted to this treatment program lived more than three years past their initial diagnosis. As of 2010, less than 11% of individuals diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma lived longer than 3 years.
Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy Process
Although the exact process of treatment varies from one patient to the next, the general steps include:
- A consultation during which the oncologist and patient explore the radiation therapy options and discuss the pros and cons of various plans. In addition to reviewing the patients documentation, the oncologist will also conduct an examination
- The patient states that they understand the treatment they’re about to undergo and signs a consent form. At any point during the treatment plan, the patient is free to withdraw their consent.
- A CT machine is used to create a map of the patient’s body and isolates the exact targets for the radiation. It’s a non-invasive process.
- The oncologist using a soft ink to mark the exact location the laser beam needs to penetrate the body. The mark, called a tattoo, is nearly invisible for a person to see. In some cases, the oncologist will create a mold of the patient’s body, or a part of their body, to provide additional protection.
Seek the Assistance of a Mesothelioma Specialist
The rarity of mesothelioma cancer makes it difficult for many oncologists to treat. The lack the knowledge and treatments that are readily available to mesothelioma specialists. Immediately after being diagnosed with the cancer, patients should meet with a mesothelioma specialist and discuss the best treatment program.
Treatment varies depending on the location of the cancerous cells, size of the tumors, and stage of the cancer. In most cases, mesothelioma radiation makes up at least part of the treatment program.
Mesothelioma doctors throughout the country agree that radiation treatment alone won’t cure a person of their mesothelioma, but they also agree that it’s an important treatment tool. The combination of radiation therapy and targeted surgery has been highly successful, resulting in a 40% increased life expectancy.
It’s not unusual for patients who have used radiation therapy as a part of their treatment, to live three years longer than originally anticipated and some have even beaten the disease.