The images produced through mechanical resonance imaging (MRI) scans and computerized topography (CT) scans allow doctors to create an effective and appropriate treatment plan for mesothelioma patients. By looking at various sections of the cancerous growth and surrounding tissue, doctors are able to create an approximation of where the radiation needs to be targeted. This also helps protect the surrounding healthy tissue. Researchers continue to develop methods for treating mesothelioma patients in order to reduce the adverse and damaging side effects to healthy tissue. One such radiotherapy is called Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Treatment or 3D-CRT.
3D-CRT Uses Other Scan Information
Radiation plays an important role in treating mesothelioma. However, there are continuing studies on the appropriate manner in which to deliver the necessary high doses of radiation to a person’s lungs without compromising healthy tissue. The goal of three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) is to deliver a conformal dose distribution to tumors while sparing surrounding normal structures. The use of patient specific 3D images in the treatment planning process sets 3D-CRT apart from conventional radiotherapy.
All prior images from tests such as positron emission tomography (PET) scans, CT Scans, and MRIs are used by the 3D-CRT. Images are placed into a dome-shaped projector that rotates around the 2D images. The 2D images are then converted by computer to 3D holograms. These are light-based images that show with precision the location, size, and shape of the tumor and all of the surrounding organs.
In the past, doctors often determined that there were many tumors too close to vital organs for radiation therapy to be an effective option. Today for example, 3D-CRT allows doctors to deliver radiation to tumors in the neck and head with such precision that the spinal cord and optic nerves are not impacted.
Risks of 3D-CRT
Researchers and doctors who treat mesothelioma report numerous benefits to 3D-CRT. However, there are a few side effects and risks. Such risks may include:
- Esophagitis – Patients may have inflammation of the esophagus, which typically starts two weeks after starting treatment until about three weeks after treatment is complete.
- Radiation pneumonitis – Another temporary side effect is immflamation of the lungs. Patients report having a low-grade fever, shortness of breath, and dry cough. This normally begins two to three months after the start of radiation treatment.
- Mucositis – Inflammation in the lining of the throat, mouth, or gums may occur. This accompanies additional side effects such as difficulty chewing, dry mouth, saliva that is thicker than normal, and mouth sores. After the completion of radiation treatment, this condition and attached side effects will end after several weeks.