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Proton Beam Radiation Therapy Use Increases for Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer

Published: May 20, 2022

Proton beam radiation therapy is growing in popularity for treating mesothelioma and lung cancer. A study in JAMA Oncology looked at the use of this radiation for treating different types of cancer. There were almost 6 million patients in the study and data shows that proton radiation use tripled from 2004 through 2018. Proton radiation is a good option for mesothelioma and lung cancer patients because it can limit how much radiation reaches other parts of the body that are not being treated. This prevents healthy tissue from being damaged during treatment. This also allows higher doses of radiation to be used on the area.

Radiation can be used for both mesothelioma and lung cancer. Cancer cells can hide in the pleural lining or between the lungs in an area called the mediastinum. Radiation can be used to target these cells that are hiding before or after surgery is completed. The beams of radiation can also be used to burn cancer cells on lung tissue. The beams are accurate enough that they can burn the cancerous tissue without causing major damage to the healthy lung tissue surrounding it. Proton radiation is also great because it can be safer and more effective than regular radiation. There is also less of a time commitment, less cycles required, and less sessions throughout the week. It can also prevent severe lung tissue inflammation called pneumonitis from occurring.

It was reported in JAMA Oncology that in 2018 1.2 percent of patients used proton beam therapy, which is up from 0.4 percent fourteen years prior. The use of this therapy increased for lung cancer from 0.1 percent to 0.7 percent. Researchers have found that this type of therapy is best when used alongside surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of all three. Some cancer centers have proton beam therapy while others have to send patients to different cancer centers that have access to the technology. If a doctor thinks the treatment could benefit you, he or she will help you find the right treatment center.

Mesothelioma is a hard cancer to treat. There is no cure for the disease, so the best option for patients is to extend their lives and create the best quality of life possible. Doctors do this by using approved and experimental treatments for mesothelioma. Proton beam therapy is just one option for mesothelioma. Patients can also receive surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of multiple treatments. If you or a loved one has mesothelioma, speak with your doctor to find the best available treatment. It may take multiple treatments to find the best option, but once you do, you could feel better and live longer.

Leticia M. Nogueira, PhD et al., “Assessment of Proton Beam Therapy Use Among Patients With Newly Diagnosed Cancer in the US, 2004-2018” JAMA Network Open (April 27, 2022). [Link]
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