Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. It is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos fibers and has a poor prognosis. Treatment for mesothelioma often involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is a common treatment option for mesothelioma patients who have undergone surgery. It is typically used to kill any remaining cancer cells and prevent the cancer from recurring. However, radiation therapy also carries some risks and potential side effects, especially for patients who have undergone surgery.
Here are some of the risks and potential side effects of radiation therapy for mesothelioma patients who have already undergone surgery:
Damage to healthy tissue: Radiation therapy works by killing cancer cells, but it can also damage healthy tissue in the process. This is especially true for mesothelioma patients who have already undergone surgery, as the radiation may target the same areas that were previously operated on. For example, radiation therapy to the chest may damage the lungs, heart, or esophagus.
Radiation pneumonitis: Radiation therapy to the chest can cause inflammation in the lungs, known as radiation pneumonitis. This can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue. In severe cases, radiation pneumonitis can lead to pneumonia or respiratory failure.
Skin irritation: Radiation therapy can cause skin irritation and redness in the area being treated. This can range from mild to severe, depending on the dose of radiation and the sensitivity of the skin. In some cases, the skin may become blistered or ulcerated.
Fatigue: Radiation therapy can cause fatigue, especially in the later weeks of treatment. This may make it difficult for patients to maintain their daily activities or work.
Nausea and vomiting: Radiation therapy to the abdomen can cause nausea and vomiting, as the radiation can affect the digestive system. This may require medication to manage.
Radiation fibrosis: Over time, radiation therapy can cause scarring in the tissue being treated. This is known as radiation fibrosis and can cause stiffness and reduced flexibility in the affected area.
Secondary cancers: Radiation therapy carries a small risk of causing secondary cancers, although this risk is generally low. Mesothelioma patients who have already undergone surgery may be at a slightly higher risk, as they may have received radiation therapy in the past.
To minimize these risks, mesothelioma patients who have already undergone surgery may receive lower doses of radiation or more targeted radiation therapy. They may also receive medication to manage side effects like nausea and fatigue. In some cases, patients may not be able to receive radiation therapy at all, depending on their overall health and the extent of their previous surgery.
Overall, radiation therapy is an important treatment option for mesothelioma patients who have already undergone surgery. However, it does carry some risks and potential side effects, which should be carefully considered and managed by a team of experienced healthcare professionals.