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What Proton Therapy Can Do


Cancer has long since stood as a major medical condition that has drawn a lot of attention, and cancer cells and malignant tumors may be found on a variety of human body parts. Anything from the brain to the throat to the pancreas and even the bones may develop cancer, and sometimes cancer may form on reproductive tissues as well. American women today often must contend with the threat of breast, ovarian, or cervical cancer, and men may develop prostate or testicular cancer. A variety of treatments in fact already exist to fight cancer, and advanced cancer treatment options, such as brain cancer treatment, may include chemotherapy or full body radiation. However, these methods do a lot of collateral damage to the body overall, and some patients may instead choose to undergo a new non-invasive cancer treatment method: proton radiation therapy. This form of non-invasive cancer treatment focuses its energies on only the affected tissue, and this is attractive for many cancer patients. This field of non-invasive cancer treatment is small but growing, and more and more cancer clinics today offer proton therapy for breast cancer and more. What is there to know about this particular brand of non-invasive cancer treatment?

Proton Beams for Cancer Treatment

This form of non-invasive cancer treatment is made possible with a synchrotron, which is a machine that electrically excites protons and issues them from a nozzle in a narrow, intense beam not unlike a laser. This means that the synchrotron will only strike cancer cells and tumors in the patient’s body, and if the doctors control it correctly, then the radiation will not even affect surrounding tissues at all. This can spare the patient from a lot of bodily harm as the cancer treatment is done, and this is even true of tissues behind the proton beam as well. Women who undergo this form of non-invasive cancer treatment may expect only half the radiation to strike their lungs as with conventional full-body radiation. The patient’s heart, meanwhile, will probably not experience any radiation at all during proton beam therapy.

Not all forms of cancer can be treated with current proton beam therapy methods, but many of them can, and a cancer patient may consult screening technicians and doctors to see if their particular cancer case can be treated with proton beam therapy. It may be noted that patients tend to visit different clinics for a diagnosis of cancer vs actually getting treatment. A woman may, for example, visit an exam clinic and get a mammography done or a breast biopsy that results in a positive cancer diagnosis, and she will visit different clinics for the treatment itself. During this time, the patient may ask about proton therapy and see if it is an option that they may take. Among other types of cancer, breast and prostate cancer can be treated with proton beams. In fact, researchers have shown just how safe this treatment is, even for the prostate. For men with low, moderate, or high-risk prostate cancer cases, 99% of patients, 94%, and 74%, respectively, reported no signs of cancer recurrence after five years of follow-up.

Proton Therapy

When a cancer patient arrives in the clinic for proton therapy, they will undergo several sessions over the course of some weeks, and every session starts with X-rays. This allows doctors to confirm and study the size, shape, and location of the cancerous growth, which gives them a target for the beam. Now, the patient will be brought to the treatment room, which includes the synchrotron and a seat or table. The patient will lay down or sit down, depending on the cancer’s location, and the doctors will adjourn to a nearby room. Now, the doctors remotely control the synchrotron and guide its beam to strike only cancer cells and tumor cells, destroying them upon contact. This overall session takes around 45 minutes, but the beam itself is used only for two or three. Over the course of a few sessions, the cancerous growth may be completely destroyed without a trace. Patients may expect only minor side effects in most cases, such as itchy or red skin, blisters, or the like on the skin of the affected area.

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