Radiation can be used as one of many regimens involved in treatment for mesothelioma. Radiation can be used to stop growth of tumors, or it can be used to relieve pain for people in the palliative stage with pleural mesothelioma.
Radiation works by applying ionizing radiation to damage the DNA which can cause growth and replication of cancer cells. Cancerous cells can actually proliferate where incisions were made for surgery or biopsies. Therefore, radiation is often used after surgery.
This is done to prevent what is called “seeding,” when mesothelioma spreads to areas where there were incisions, where there are chest tubes, or at drainage sites. The tumors that form in these instances are frequently referred to as nodules.
How Radiation is Used
There are a number of ways that radiation therapy can be used. The two used for pleural mesothelioma are external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy.
External beam radiation therapy delivers radiation externally, employing a machine using a beam. The treatment is painless, though it can irritate skin much like a sunburn. The two applications of external beam radiation therapy include:
Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy, which uses 3D imaging to target the beams in order to lessen exposure to healthy tissue. This emits a uniform-intensity beam.
Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy, which works in much the same way as Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy, but utilizes beams of variable intensities from different directions.
Brachytherapy is less common, and mostly being applied in clinical trials. This treatment involves placing a radioactive object in or near the tumor. This tiny object emits a small field of radiation that should directly target the tumor and kill cells. The radioactive object can be placed either permanently or temporarily.
For patients who have had a lung removed as a result of mesothelioma, a precise delivery of radiation is used in the area where the diseased lung was located, in order to preserve the other lung. If only part of the lung was removed, then radiation can be used in a targeted way to reduce the possibility of the cancer spreading to the other parts of the lung.
A 1995 study showed that patients who received radiation after surgery in sites that are subject to seeding had no seeding. In that study. 20 patients received radiation therapy while 20 patients did not. Eight of the patients who did not receive radiation did develop the nodules.
A 2007 study on the same issue, working with 61 patients total, found opposing results. Eight of those receiving radiation therapy and four who did not developed nodules after radiation. Thus, the results are not consistent in every study.
Side Effects After Radiation
Radiation can cause side effects right after treatment, or after some time has passed. Early side effects include fatigue and some skin problems. Skin can become irritated, red, or there may be sensitivity or swelling. There may even be peeling or blistering around the site where the radiation was administered. Some people use complementary or even alternative medicine to manage mild and early side effects.
Some late side effects years later could include lung scarring or fibrosis, liver damage, cardiac radiation damage, radiation myelitis, pleural effusion, or radiation pneumonitis. These are rare.
Additionally, it is possible that nearby lymph nodes can become calcified because of radiation in some instances.
If you or someone you care about contracted mesothelioma and you suspect that it could be related to exposure to a product in your home or in your workplace, Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler can evaluate your case, and provide you with sound legal advice. To make an appointment in our Philadelphia office, call us at 215-569-4000, or contact us online and to provide you with legal advice concerning your situation today.