Proton therapy is a non- invasive cancer treatment that has many advantages over older conventional radiation therapy methods. It uses a high energy beam of protons to destroy the affected cells, but without the side effects seen in conventional radiation therapy. Proton treatment is considered the gold standard for treatment of many different kinds of cancers including pediatric cancers and head and neck cancers.
Proton therapy is used around the world
The number of proton radiation therapy centers is growing, in the U.S. and around the world. By the start of 2015, there were over 30 particle therapy centers under construction across the world. These had a combined total of around 80 treatment rooms.
In the U.S., the “US Proton Therapy Outlook 2017” by RNCOS estimates that there will be around 27 treatment centers by 2017.
Proton therapy was first used in 1995, but the lack of precise imaging of internal organs was a handicap. Over the years, as the technology has progressed, over 67,000 people have had proton therapy in Europe, Asia and the United States.
How it works
Proton therapy is a type of radiation treatment for cancer. It is non-invasive and does not require surgery. Instead, it uses a a high energy beam of protons that targets and destroys the affected cells. Unlike conventional radiation treatment, the proton beam does not affect the healthy tissue it passes through before or after reaching the affected area.
For head and neck cancer treatment and breast cancer treatment, a treatment method that does not damage the sensitive organs surrounding the affected areas is a major advance. When treating breast cancer, for example, the heart receives no radiation and the lungs receive 50% less than with conventional treatments.
Reducing side effects of radiation therapy
By reducing damage to healthy tissues, proton therapy avoids side effects like skin burns, fatigue and impact to bodily functions that are seen with conventional radiation treatment. Sessions last for fifteen to 45 minutes, but the actual time during which the patient is exposed to radiation is just a minute or two.
Techniques like pencil beam and uniform scanning allow for precise control of the radiation. It reduces the time needed for treatment and the amount of radiation used. The affected cells can be directly targeted with aggressive doses of radiation, while surrounding areas receive little to no radiation. For head and neck cancer treatment, where the affected area is surrounded by sensitive organs, the focused treatment constitutes a major advance.
Proton cancer therapy shows remarkable rates of success in treating prostrate cancer. As a non invasive head and neck cancer treatment, it avoids damaging surrounding tissues, which can be a very important consideration in treating areas surrounding delicate organs.