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Radiation for Mesothelioma

Radiation treatment is one of the best ways to reduce pain and shrink tumors in all cancer patients, including asbestos-cancer patients. While radiation alone may not increase a mesothelioma survival rate, when it is coupled with other treatments it kills or shrinks tumors.

Also known as radiotherapy, radiation treatment can trace its roots to the early discovery of X-rays in the late 1800s. Even back then doctors used radiation to shrink growths and tumors. Today, radiation treatments have become technologically advanced to the point that they can be targeted to specific locations. This is particularly helpful to asbestos-cancer patients who have cancer in specific areas.

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How is Radiation Used in Mesothelioma Treatment?

Often, asbestos-cancer patients are given multimodal or trimodal therapy to combat the disease. This could be a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. There several types of radiation treatment that are used to treat asbestos cancers:

  • External Beam - This type of radiation targets a specific area to reduce, eliminate or slow the growth of cancer cells. This is the oldest and most commonly used form of radiation. In this, patients lie on a table and the radiation machine slowly moves around the patient. This is typically a painless procedure. Of the types of external-beam radiation treatments, chemotherapy patients either receive a 3D-radiation treatment or an intensity-modulated radiation treatment (IMRT). The 3D treatment allows doctors to see detailed images of the area receiving treatment and spare surrounding organs from damaging rays. The IMRT process provides inconsistent radiation beams across the tumors. While some surrounding organs may be exposed to radiation, the overall treatment is found to be beneficial for patients.
  • Seeding - Also called brachytherapy or interstitial radiation, this is used less frequently than external beam radiation. In this, radioactive rods, or implants, are inserted into or near the tumor area. High doses and highly concentrated amounts of radiation are released. There are two types of brachytherapy -- permanent and temporary. The temporary type releases radiation for a short period of time and is removed, while the permanent type releases radiation for up to 12 months and simply stops working.

Side Effects of Radiation

Radiation therapy can cause the following side effects:

  • Skin problems - This includes redness, drying, peeling and some minor sunburn-like complications.
  • Fatigue - Some patients say that the severe fatigue that results from radiation treatment lasts for months.
  • Mouth problems - This includes mouth sores, dry mouth and changes in taste.

Radiation Treatments

Any patient who has been diagnosed with an asbestos cancer should seek out a medical professional who is skilled in mesothelioma treatment immediately. While a regular oncologist might be fine for common cancer treatment, asbestos cancers are rare cancers that can be difficult to treat if left in untrained hands. Only experts can help you decide if radiation treatment is best for you and your diagnosis.


Journal of Applied Clinical Medical Physics. “Evaluation of the dose calculation accuracy in intensity-modulated radiation therapy for mesothelioma, focusing on low doses to the contralateral lung.” Retrieved from http://www.jacmp.org/index.php/jacmp/article/viewArticle/2850/1596

Moore, Alastair, et. al. “Malignant mesothelioma.” U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2652430/?tool=pmcentrez