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Radiation pneumonitis 

Radiation pneumonitis

Chapter:
Radiation pneumonitis
Author(s):

S.J. Bourke

and D.J. Hendrick

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199204854.003.181412

July 30, 2015: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

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date: 28 April 2017

The lungs can be injured by radiation used in cancer treatment, with the rapidly dividing endothelial cells and type II pneumocytes most affected. Immediate injury is followed by an inflammatory response and at a later stage by fibrosis. Chest radiography reveals asymptomatic changes in about 50% of patients after radiotherapy. Acute radiation pneumonitis presents with cough, breathlessness and fever about 2 months after exposure; corticosteroids are usually effective in relieving symptoms but do not prevent the subsequent development of fibrosis. Fibrosis typically develops about 6 months later, may progress for 6 to 24 months, but has usually stabilized by 2 years. Prevention depends on refining techniques for giving radiotherapy.

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