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Four Must Read books for anyone diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
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When your doctor is considering the best course of treatment for your pleural mesothelioma, there is a good chance that radiation therapy will be included in the regimen. Radiation may be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells (adjuvant radiation therapy) or may be used in tandem with chemotherapy. In rare cases, it may be the only treatment recommended. Much will depend on the stage of the cancer, the location of the tumor, and a variety of other factors.
For patients with pleural mesothelioma, radiation is rarely curative. Rather, it is often recommended as a palliative procedure. Radiation may offer pain relief and lessen some of the other uncomfortable symptoms of the disease, therefore improving the patient’s quality of life.
Types of Radiation Therapy for Pleural Mesothelioma Patients
- External Beam Radiation – Used for decades to treat a variety of cancers, this is the most commonly used form of radiation therapy. This is a simple procedure and causes far fewer side effects than chemotherapy. To receive external beam radiation, the patient usually lies on a table and the external source of radiation is aimed at the affected area. New methods of delivering this type of radiation are being developed in hopes of better targeting the radiation and sparing the healthy cells around the affected area. Unfortunately, this type of radiation is rarely curative in the fight against pleural mesothelioma.
- Brachytherapy – This form of radiation has been shown to be somewhat more effective in treating pleural mesothelioma patients. It involves the implantation of small radioactive seeds at the site of the tumor. This allows the radiation to come in direct contact with the cancer without affecting healthy cells that might be destroyed by traditional radiation. In some instances, the seeds are planted and then removed after a certain amount of time. In other cases, they are left in the body even after they stop emitting radiation.
Side Effects of Radiation in Pleural Mesothelioma
Often, the side effects of radiation therapy are temporary and should cease after the treatment has concluded. Side effects may include:
- Skin damage – Though this has improved with more targeted radiation, the skin in the affected area may become red and dry and may peel. In some cases, the skin darkens as well. Patients should avoid the sun and only use lotions recommended by their doctor.
- Fatigue – One of the most noted side effects of radiation, many patients complain of severe fatigue that, in some cases, lasts long after the radiation is complete. Doctors can check for underlying reasons, such as anemia, and should be able to treat those causes if present.
- Mouth problems – Radiation patients often complain of dry mouth or taste bud damage. These can cause difficulty with eating so the patient’s diet may need to be changed to ensure that he/she is getting all the nutrients they need.
- Other less common side effects may include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, hair loss in the affected area, swelling, urinary and bladder changes, sexual changes, and infertility.
It is important to report all side effects to your medical team, especially in the early stages of your treatment and until you know how your body is going to react to the radiation. Some side effects are indeed treatable. Others, unfortunately, will need to be tolerated.