Mesothelioma and Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a mesothelioma treatment option that involves using neutrons, x-rays, or gamma rays to attack tumors. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, your treatment options may include one of these types of radiation.

There are two basic types of radiation therapy. One is called internal therapy because the radiation is applied from within the body. Also known as implant therapy or interstitial radiation, this therapy involves the implantation of radioisotopes into the body near the cancer cells. The radiation destroys the cancer. A different type of internal radiation therapy is systemic radiation therapy, where a radioactive substance is put into the body and allowed to circulate rather than sitting in a single location.

External radiation therapy is what many people think of first when it comes to mesothelioma treatment options or other types of cancer therapy. Radiation is applied to the body using a machine to focus a concentrated beam on a specific section. Mesothelioma doctors sometimes refer to this treatment as external-beam radiation therapy.

Treatment for mesothelioma depends on the patient, plus the nature and location of the disease. Some types of mesothelioma may require treatment with surgery and radiation. There are types of surgery that are intended to relieve discomfort or remove blockages which can’t successfully remove the entire growth. A good example of such a procedure is the pleurectomy. This operation is intended to remove as much of a tumor or growth as possible within the abdomen or chest lining. Complete removal may not be possible; in these cases your mesothelioma options could include recommendations for both radiation therapy and surgery.

If your mesothelioma doctor prescribes radiation therapy, you may be warned of possible side effects which can include fertility problems, diarrhea, lack of appetite or other symptoms. Many of the side effects depend on where your radiation therapy is applied; you don’t automatically develop any of these symptoms simply because you experience radiation therapy.

You should be given a complete briefing on all possible side effects of radiation therapy, including a list of common symptoms. Some are common – irritation at the site of the radiation, swelling or fluid buildup. You may experience nausea during your treatment and some mesothelioma doctors advise their patients not to eat for a few hours prior to treatment.

Some side effects should be reported right away. If you experience shortness of breath, coughing or difficulty swallowing, report these to your mesothelioma doctor immediately. Some radiation therapy patients may experience shortness of breath as a “late effect.” Patients who receive radiation treatment to the chest or lungs may later experience scarring or stiffening in the lungs, which prevents getting a full measure of air.

Radiation therapy in the stomach area may require special diets for the course of treatment. You may need to avoid fiber, start a clear liquid diet, or avoid dairy products. In these cases, doctors strongly recommend careful diet planning to maximize the value of the food you eat so that your body remains as strong as possible during treatment.

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