It is extremely important for an oncologist to view a mesothelioma patient’s tumor before, during, and after the treatment. Doctors rely on image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) to help monitor patient tumors. This treatment delivers beams of radiation directly to the tumor with such precision that healthy tissue and surrounding organs are less likely to be adversely affected.
Every mesothelioma or lung cancer patient will undergo the same procedure at the start of the therapy session. While lying on a treatment table, a patient will have images of their tumor created by the radiation beams that are placed in perfect alignment with the treatment area. These images will then be compared to preliminary images that were taken during the development of the patient’s treatment planning.
Doctors will then determine if any needed adjustments should be made so that the image-guided radiation treatment can be more effective. A patient may need to move their position on the table, or it is possible that the beams of radiation are not in a perfectly aligned path and should be adjusted accordingly. It is crucial to the success of the treatment that the tumor is targeted accurately.
Treating Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer with IGRT
Removing a patient’s tumor traditionally is done using surgical methods. If the cancerous tumor is detected early enough, then it is usually confined to the functional portion of the single lobe of one lung. Yet, a majority of patients discover that their tumor was not found until later stages of the disease. When that happens, surgery alone is not the most effective treatment plan. Radiation therapy also is needed in combination with surgery. For some patients, surgery itself is not an option, so an alternative therapy such as radiation therapy is the only choice.
How Does Image-Guided Radiation Therapy Work?
A benefit to using image-guided radiation therapy is that doctors have the best chance of preventing healthy tissues or organs from any damage. Oncologists can view the normal tissue surrounding the tumor, which allows for a more precise calculation of radiation doses.
During radiation therapy, it is important that patients remain still and not move. Remaining motionless while on the treatment table will assist in preventing the tumor from being tilted, which can produce incorrect readings. While a patient goes through a normal cycle of breathing, a dimensional gated planning CT will monitor the changes to tumor shape and position. Over the next six to seven weeks, the tumor will receive the proper dose of radiation.
The advances in radiation therapy, including three-dimensional treatment and image-guided radiation treatment, have been shown to improve the lifespan for small-volume lung cancer patients.
The Adverse Reactions to IGRT
The amount of radiation a patient receives will determine the seriousness of the side effects. Other factors include the amount of normal, healthy tissue that may have been exposed to radiation.
A patient may experience painful swallowing that can result in malnutrition because it becomes difficult for patients to eat. This is a result of radiation injury to the esophagus, which causes a narrowing of the tube that delivers food to the stomach.
Radiation may cause fibrosis, which is a scarring of lung tissue, or even pneumonitis, an inflammation of the air sacs in the lung. A sudden decrease in overall pulmonary function and shortness of breath will be experienced by patients with either condition.
If these conditions become acute, then a patient may require oxygen treatment either temporarily or permanently.