Radiotherapy for mesothelioma

Radiotherapy for mesothelioma may be given to help relieve symptoms, and occasionally alongside surgery and chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial.

About radiotherapy for mesothelioma

Radiotherapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. It is normally given as a series of short, daily outpatient treatments in the radiotherapy department. Radiotherapy for mesothelioma may be given:

  • to help relieve symptoms, such as pain and breathlessness
  • occasionally alongside surgery and chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial.

You may only need one or two treatments. Or you may need a course of treatment over a few days or weeks. Radiotherapy for mesothelioma does not make you radioactive and it is perfectly safe for you to be with other people, including children, throughout your treatment.

We have more information about radiotherapy.

Side effects of radiotherapy for mesothelioma

You may develop side effects while you are having your radiotherapy treatment and for some time afterwards. These usually improve gradually over a few weeks or months after treatment finishes, but it is important to let your doctor know if they continue.

Radiotherapy can cause side effects in the area of your body that is being treated. You may also have some general side effects such as feeling sick (nausea) and tired. Your doctor, radiographer or nurse will let you know what to expect. Tell them about any side effects you have during or after treatment. There are often things that can be done to help.

Skin reactions

Some people develop a skin reaction while having radiotherapy. How your skin reacts will depend on the amount of radiotherapy you are having. Your doctor, radiographer or nurse will tell you how to look after your skin during and after treatment.

Difficulty swallowing

After a week or two of treatment, you may have some difficulty with swallowing. You may also have heartburn and indigestion. This happens because radiotherapy can cause inflammation in the tube that runs from your mouth to your stomach (called the gullet or oesophagus).

Tell your doctors if you have problems swallowing. They can give you medicines to help. If you don’t feel like eating, or have problems with swallowing, talk to your doctor or a dietitian. They may recommend you have some high-calorie drinks to help. You can get these from most chemists, and your GP can give these to you.

Cough

You may develop a cough during or after chest radiotherapy. This usually settles within a few weeks of finishing your treatment. Always tell your doctor, radiographer or specialist nurse if:

  • the cough does not get better
  • you develop a temperature or become short of breath, as you may have an infection.