Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. X-rays, gamma rays, and charged particles are types of radiation used for cancer treatment. Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA, the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information and pass it from one generation to the next. Radiation can be used to shrink tumors and prevent mesothelioma from spreading after surgery or to reduce symptoms.
One advantage of radiation therapy is that it can target specific areas of the body, whereas chemotherapy is more systemic in nature. Dose levels and the angles from which radiation is delivered can be adjusted to maximize effectiveness and minimize damage to surrounding tissue and organs.
To ensure the most advanced and appropriate type of radiation treatment as well as other treatment options, the Mesothelioma Options Help Center will work with you to access the best doctors in your area as well as the financial and legal resources you and your family will need.
There are two primary types of radiation therapy. External Beam Radiation, which has been around the longest, uses a machine to deliver a dose of radiation to cancerous tumors. External Beam Radiation technology has become considerably more advanced in recent years, allowing doctors to more precisely reach tumors with better coverage and less chance of damage to surrounding areas. Because the risk of damage is high and the potential consequences significant, these advances represent a major step forward in the treatment of all types of cancer.
Brachytherapy, also known as interstitial radiation therapy or sealed source radiation therapy, is a more recent innovation that involves the placement of radioactive material directly into cancerous tissues. This in turn allows higher does of concentrated radiation over a shorter time frame on more entrenched tumors.
Radiation therapy targets specific areas of the body and can be adjusted to maximize effectiveness and minimize damage to surrounding tissue and organs.
With brachytherapy, radioactive sources can be implanted into the patient's body in two ways. Intracavitary treatment involves passing radioactive sources in special containers through body cavities such as the windpipe, uterus or vagina. Interstitial treatment involves injecting radioactive sources directly into the tumor via thin catheters.
Radiation therapy is usually an outpatient procedure using general anesthesia, is relatively painless and has fewer side effects than chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is almost always used in combination with surgery and chemotherapy to treat most types of mesothelioma, though it is less useful with peritoneal mesothelioma because of the high concentration of vital organs in the abdomen that might be damaged by it. Studies have shown that combination therapy, while not providing a cure, does consistently extend survival rates. In recent decades, more people are employing alternative treatments in conjunction with conventional methods, though the effectiveness of these treatments has not been the subject of much scientific research and remains anecdotal in nature.