Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Where do we go from here? Part 2

Yesterday, I tried to pull together some thoughts about surgery as a treatment option.  Today it's the turn of radiotherapy.  

As far as I can make out, there are two types of radiotherapy : external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) or intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) where computers control the radiotherapy machine to give a very specific dose to a cancer or specific areas of a tumour. Research in the USA indicates that patients who receive IMRT appear to have a lower risk of cancer recurrence (14.3%) compared to EBRT (41.7%).  If Steve has a choice between the two, then clearly it's a no-brainer.  IMRT has the advantage that it can better target the cancer whilst sparing nearby organs from radiation exposure.  

Those of you who have followed the blog from early days will know that Steve has already had radiotherapy on the "ports" where the chest drain was inserted and the biopsy taken back in June, 2009.  This procedure reduces the risk of the cancer seeding into the scar tissue, which is a vulnerable area.  You can still see two circles where the exposed skin is a different colour from the surroundings, although the bright red sun burn colour has long since faded.  

In November 2009, researchers from Melbourne, Australia, reported that new radiation techniques may improve the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients.  This technique involves using higher-than-normal doses of radiotherapy, made possible by advances in technology and better equipment.  In the pilot study, on average the treatment has given patients an additional two years life expectancy, with no major side effects.  Where the cancer has retuned, it has appeared in a different place, enabling the same technique to be used again. Something to explore further with the consultant on Thursday, possibly...

Tomorrow, it's time to look at chemotherapy....

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