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Radiation pneumonitis 

Radiation pneumonitis
Chapter:
Radiation pneumonitis
Author(s):

S. J. Bourke

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198746690.003.0432
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date: 05 March 2021

The lungs can be injured by radiation used in the treatment of cancer, 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 detects 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 6–24 months, but has usually stabilized by 2 years. Prevention depends on refining techniques for giving radiotherapy.

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