Proton Therapy for Cancer Patients

Cancer stands as among the most feared and dangerous health ailments in the developed world, and it can appear in many different parts of the body, some more common than others, and even the reproductive organs may develop cancerous growths at some point in a person’s life. The brain, lungs, intestines, testicles, prostate gland, ovaries, and even bones may all develop tumors at some point, and most of these cancers can become life-threatening, or may result from certain lifestyles or exposure to dangerous elements. Whatever the cause, traditional methods for destroying cancer exist such as X-ray radiation therapy and chemotherapy, but these methods entail certain risks. Now, proton radiation therapy promises to be a safer and more effective alternative to cancer treatment, and a cancer treatment center may offer this new technology for patients who can afford to try it.

What is Proton Therapy?

A cancer treatment center may include s synchrotron, which is the machine that administers proton cancer treatment. This technology is still rare, but it is developing fast, and more and more medical centers are being built to accommodate it. The synchrotron itself excites clusters of protons and gives them energy, and these protons issue from a thin nozzle to create a concentrated beam of radiation that focuses only on the cancerous growth that is meant to destroy. As a result, surrounding tissue around the tumor is unaffected, contrasting with other cancer treatment methods, and the beam’s energy is almost entirely exhausted on the tumor, meaning that little, if any, leftover radiation will penetrate deeper into the body and harm it. For example, breast cancer treatment can cause a lot of collateral damage, but a proton beam will not easily penetrate the breast, so the patient’s heart will not suffer nearly as much radiation compared to traditional radiation therapy. For men, prostate treatment with protons has a very low chance of affecting the patient’s reproductive health after the procedure.

When a patient goes to a cancer treatment center for proton therapy, there is a multi-step process to follow. First, the patient will have his or her X-rays taken so the doctors can see the size, shape, and location of the tumor so they know exactly where to aim the proton beam. Then, the patient is led into a certain room with the synchrotron, and the patient will either sit in a chair or lie down on a table, depending on the tumor’s location. The doctors will then sit down in a control room nearby and remotely activate and control the synchrotron as needed, and direct its proton beam into the tumor and nothing else. The patient is advised to not move, and he/she can use speakers to talk to the doctors if need be, and hear back from them. The beam then issues from the synchrotron and it destroys the cancer cells upon contact, and this part of the procedure is a actually very short, lasting only one or two minutes. The entire procedure, from entering the building to finishing the beam phase, lasts about 45 minutes. Several sessions will be done, and the patient’s X-ray will be taken every time so the doctors are up to date on the tumor. Side effects for the patient may include redness, dryness, swelling, or itching on the skin of the affected area.

Proton therapy is relatively new, but it has already demonstrated itself to be effective and safe for patients suffering various cancer types. Among male patients with prostate cancer, for example, men with low, medium, or high-risk prostate reported no sign of cancer recurrence five years later with 99%, 94%, and 74% frequency, respectively. Similarly, male patients reported very low rates or reproductive health harm after undergoing proton treatment for prostate cancer at a cancer treatment center.

As a whole, the technology of radiation therapy is fairly new and expensive to undertake, but it is expanding. As of early 2015, for example, 30 different cancer treatment centers around the world are being built for proton therapy technology, and they all have 80 total rooms among them. The technology may continue to grow into the future, and this can be very good news for cancer patients looking for treatment, especially if they refuse the risks of chemotherapy or older radiation methods.

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