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Can radiation therapy improve mesothelioma treatments?

People who are familiar with the dangers of asbestos likely know that detecting the diseases caused by exposure can be very difficult. It can take many years for victims to start experiencing symptoms of conditions like mesothelioma, and the symptoms are often quite similar to other conditions. A victim may not go see a doctor right away, and when they do, doctors typically rule out many illnesses before they can confirm a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness. All this can take precious time away from a person's chances at getting effective treatment.

By the time victims are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, much of the damage has already been done. A person may only have a matter of weeks or months to live, which can be devastating. That is why many researchers are looking for ways to diagnose these diseases earlier and get patients access to more effective treatments. And new research suggests that there may be an effective way of extending and improving the quality of a person's life if he or she has mesothelioma.

According to researchers, patients who were treated with radiation prior to surgery reported a much higher 3-year survival rate. Without radiation, mesothelioma patients undergoing surgery may only have about a 32 percent chance of living for three years. But when people underwent the radiation treatment before surgery, that rate jumped to 72 percent. People were also recovering from surgery faster and had fewer complications.

The radiation treatment is used to target doses of radiation around the tumors in a person's lungs. By doing this, the cancer is kept from spreading elsewhere in a person's body. This results in a more effective surgical removal of the affected lung.

These results are certainly promising, as they give victims the benefit of time. Too often, mesothelioma sufferers pass away very quickly after a diagnosis. But by improving treatment techniques, victims can continue to live for many years. 

Source: Oncology Nurse Advisors, "Radiation before surgery more than doubles mesothelioma survival," Feb. 11, 2014

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